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Visualizing The Wage Gender Gap at America’s Top Colleges

Going to college is supposed to mean that you earn more money.

That’s definitely true, but did you know that going to school does not eliminate the gender pay gap? In fact, a new analysis of numbers from the Department of Education shows that going to the best schools might even make the gender pay imbalance worse.

We gathered the information for our visualization from BusinessStudent.com, which analyzed numbers for the 100 best universities and 25 best liberal arts colleges according to the US News College rankings. After removing the schools that don’t have any data available, researchers were left with 117 schools. They used data from the Department of Education to determine average earnings for men and women six years after starting their higher education, discounting anyone still in school full time. The result is a shocking portrait of gender pay inequality.

Out of the 117 top schools as defined by the US News College rankings, these are the ten with the highest overall gender pay gaps.

1. Stanford University: $36,000

2. Brigham Young University: $33,300

3. Princeton University: $32,300

4. University of Pennsylvania: $32,000

5. Duke University: $31,600

6. MIT: $30,000

7. Harvard University: $29,700

8. Carnegie Mellon: $29,600

9. Rice University: $27,200

10. Wake Forest University: $25,100

A lot of economists have researched the gender pay gap in depth, so let’s take a second to put these numbers in perspective. There are lots of ways to slice the data, but in general, the simplest pay disparity stat to look at is for white women. Working full-time, they earn 87% as much as white men. The gap is much worse for other subgroups, but let’s take 13% as a common pay gap for the sake of argument. The average pay gap in our visualization is 30%.

Stanford jumps out as having the largest post-school pay gap overall largely because students typically take very high-paying jobs out of school. In relative terms, however, Brigham Young actually has the highest pay gap, that is, women make 57.3% less than men after leaving BYU compared to 31.9% at Stanford. The smallest gap among the top 20 is still shockingly large at $12,500.

Our visualization makes clear that the gender pay gap is enormous and persistent for graduates across the best schools in the country. In fact, women made more than men at only 3 of the 117 schools. The most troubling inference to be made is that these numbers represent average earnings for men and women in their early 20s. Imagine what the difference will be in 30 years—the gaps compound on themselves and will grow bigger and bigger.

What can account for this situation? Could there be a problem with the underlying data? Remember, the Department of Education only reports average earnings for people six years after they started school. These numbers therefore include people who dropped out or otherwise did not graduate. So could more women drop out of school than men, resulting in lower wages for those without a college degree? In short, no. A lot more women graduate from college than men.

The explanation for the gender pay gap must either be found in the types of degrees or career choices men and women make, or, perhaps, the simplest explanation makes the most sense: employers tend to unfairly pay women less, even if they have a diploma from Harvard.

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