NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Women generally need to stay in school for two to four years longer than their male co-workers in order to earn as much or more than them, a new study shows.
Women with an associate degree earn just more than $1.5 million in their lifetimes, roughly the same as what a man earns with a high school diploma, despite the difference of two years of educational attainment, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Likewise, a woman would need at least a doctoral degree to out-earn the $2.59 million a man makes in his lifetime with a bachelor’s degree, which is a difference of four years of educational attainment.
The researchers analyzed median wage data from the Census Bureau by occupation and extrapolated how much employees earned during a 40-year career to determine the difference in income by education level. In the process, the researchers found that women earn significantly less than men at each educational level.
For example, the median lifetime earnings for workers of both genders with a doctoral degree is $3.25 million, but that amount breaks down to just $2.86 million for women compared to a generous $3.46 million for men, a difference of $600,000. For those with professional degrees, the difference in earnings amounts to more than $1 million in a lifetime.
Indeed, the report shows that the gender gap actually gets worse in some cases at higher education levels. Women who have only received a high school diploma earn 25.5% less than men with the same amount of education when working full-time over the course of their careers, whereas women with a master’s degree earn 26.2% less than men with a master’s.
While the report doesn’t go into much depth about the factors driving these significant wage discrepancies, previous studies have shown that many women may be held back by various life choices that impact their earnings, not to mention the fact that women are generally less cutthroat in seeking out more competitive, higher-paying professions.
Still, the tables are turning in favor of women in some professions. For more information about how the gender gap is changing, check out MainStreet’s roundup of jobs where women earn more than men, as well as our exclusive look at careers where women are gradually outpacing men for jobs.
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