Big Pay Differences Among New Male, Female Ph.D.s

May 11, 2016

Female Ph.D.s in science and engineering earn 31 percent less than their male cohorts one year after graduation, according to a new study in American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings. When controlling for the fact that women tend to earn degrees in fields that pay less than those in which more men earn degrees, the observed gap dropped to 11 percent. And the gap disappeared when controlling for whether the women were married and had children. "There's a dramatic difference in how much early-career men and women in the sciences are paid," Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at Ohio State University, said in a news release. "We can't tell from our data what's going on there. There's probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work. But there may also be some employers putting women on a 'mommy track' where they get paid less."

Weinberg’s co-authors were Catherine Buffington and Benjamin Cerf of the U.S. Census Bureau and Christina Jones of the American Institutes for Research. The researchers used previously unavailable data regarding 1,237 students who received Ph.D.s from four U.S. universities from 2007-10 and were supported on research projects while in school. Data included federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (used to determine their field of study) and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation -- as well as their marital and parental status.

Some 59 percent of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry and health, compared to just 27 percent of men. Men were more likely to complete degrees in fields that tend to be more lucrative, according to the study, including engineering, computer science and physics. About equal percentages of men and women were married, and more men had children. But married women with children saw lower pay one year out of graduate school, according to the study.

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