A new working paper by professors at the University of Chicago and the University of California provides new insight into why women are paid less than men.
The professors connected college students’ choice of undergraduate major with labor market outcomes and found that even as the gender gap in certain majors previously dominated by male students has declined over time, a large gap still exists. They note, for example, that engineering is still a largely male-dominated major and field.
The wage gap has long been attributed to women’s career choices – especially for those who work in industries dominated by women, which tend to pay less than fields dominated by men -- and decisions to take time off to have children. But the authors found “that college major choice has strong predictive power in explaining gender wage gaps independent of occupation choice.”
The authors have developed a new index that measures the potential wage gap between women and men based on the majors they’ve chosen.
Dan Black, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and one of the authors of the report, noted in a written statement that there are now more women attending college than men. He said employers will have to adjust to this new reality.
“Keeping these women in the workforce and working is going to be very important,” he said.