A new report released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds that one year after college graduation, women in 2009 were being paid just 82 percent of what their male colleagues earned.
The report, “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Men and Women One Year after College Graduation,” used data from 15,000 college graduates who earned degrees during the 2007-2008 academic year. Focusing on graduates with full-time employment, researchers found that men were making an average of $42,918 a year after receiving their diplomas, while the average female college graduate was earning an average of just $35,296 -- a difference of more than $7,000 in annual income.
“There are two main findings from this,” said Dr. Catherine Hill, report co-author and AAUW director of research, in a media teleconference held on Wednesday. “First, there is a gender pay gap, and it starts right out of college. Second point? The pay gap means that a larger chunk of women’s paychecks goes to pay back their student loan debt.”
Researchers say that the pay gap fluctuates depending on one’s career field. Female business majors reported annual earnings that were just 84 percent of what male business majors earned, while women in computer science, engineering, social sciences and technology generally earned between 77 percent to 88 percent of what their male colleagues made. Healthcare and education earnings, researchers said, were close to being even for both male and female college graduates.
Controlling for certain variables -- such as wage discrepancies in high-paying careers like computer science and engineering compared to other fields -- the study still noted a 6.6 percent gap in annual earnings between men and women. “It shrinks,” Dr. Hill said. “But it does not go away.”
Dr. Hill said that several factors, including gender discrimination in traditionally male fields as well as pay negotiation difficulties, might explain the discrepancies in pay between male and female college graduates.
“For many young women, the challenge of paying back student loans is their first encounter with the pay gap,” said Christianne Corbett, AAUW senior researcher and study co-author.
Corbett said that a higher percentage of college graduates were paying more of their annual income towards student loan debt in 2009 than in 2001, with 20 percent of women, as opposed to 15 percent of men, spending at least 15 percent of their annual income on paying off their student loans. Comparatively, just 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men were spending 15 percent or more of their annual earnings on paying back student loans in 2001.
She said that recent research has indicated that most college graduates can pay only about 8 percent of their total income towards student loans. According to Corbett, the number of women paying larger portions of their incomes towards student loan debt is a cause for concern.
“Over half of women,” Corbett said, “are paying more than what we estimated a typical woman can afford to pay.”