Graduating college students all over the country are preparing to claim their diplomas, but equal salaries will not await the class of 2017 when they join the work force. The gender wage gap for recent college graduates has expanded, according to a new study, with women making a mere 86 percent of what their male peers will earn. As reported by the Huffington Post, the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank the Economic Policy Institute released their findings on Thursday — and what they revealed was a distressing dose of reality for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young grads.
The EPI announced that for the first four years after graduation, college-educated women can expect to make on average $17.88 an hour, compared to men's hourly earnings of $20.87 an hour. This gap suggests women could be losing out on more than $6,000 a year, which means also losing out on money to put towards savings, student loan payments, and costs of living (not to mention the fact that it costs more to be a woman in general, too). Despite all genders having equal footing when it comes to professional experience and market value during this time, the EPI confirmed that at the start of their careers, female graduates are consistently paid less than their male counterparts.
While wages dampened by the 2008 recession are improving for college graduates overall, the study found that men's wages are increasing at a faster rate than women's, widening the pay disparity. Census data analyzed by the EPI does show that the gap has closed slightly since 2015, when female college grads made 83 percent of that of their male classmates — but this is cold comfort when you take into account the fact that the wage gap was considerably smaller, at only 92 percent, in 2000. In other words, it's been getting worse over time, not better.
"Young male college graduates earn 5.4 percent more than young male college graduates in 2000, while young female college graduates earn 2.2 percent less than young female college graduates in 2000," the study notes. "These gender wage discrepancies are primarily driven by faster wage growth for top-earning men than for top-earning women, which drives up the average male wage." It seems we can chalk this discrepancy up to slow growth combined with the fact that the wage gap is wider at the top, and as economic analyst Elise Gould told HuffPost, men are more likely to get the high-paying jobs at the top of the market.
Thankfully, the news is not all bad. The gap is closing for those with high school diplomas, with female high school graduates making 90 cents for every dollar male high school graduates make — an increase of 4 percentage points since 2000. Currently, the unemployment rates are higher for men at 7.1 percent compared to 4.4 percent for women (Yay! Jobs!).
While that gender pay gap has improved compared to 30 years ago, no significant changes have happened since 2000. As of 2015, women earn 80 percent of what men are paid, and women of color face an even steeper pay gap, regardless of their level of education. So while the EPI's results aren't shocking in these uncertain times, they are certainly not the stats we want to hear.