Women In The News

Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff

Why Women’s Pay Growth Slows At Age 30 And Peaks By 39

A new analysis by compensation research firm PayScale maps out exactly when college-educated women begin earning less than their male counterparts—and it’s right from the beginning.

According to PayScale’s massive database of salary and demographic data from millions of full-time workers, female college graduates initially earn a median of $31,900 and male college graduates earn a median of $40,800, a difference of $8,900. From ages 22 to 30, men and women experience near identical wage growth in percentage terms. They generally see their salaries grow by 60% to $51,000 for women and $65,300 for men.

However, age 30 seems to be the pivoting point. That’s when women’s earnings growth slows substantially while men’s remains steady. By age 39, college-educated women working full-time stop getting raises and see their salaries peak at about $60,000. Their male peers, on the other hand, continue seeing wage increases through age 48, when they earn a median of $95,000 a year.

Francine Blau, professor of economics and industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, offers some cautions when reading the data: It’s not a random sample, as users opt in to providing information, and so may differ from other sources. It also doesn’t follow people over time. Rather, they are comparing earnings based on gender and various ages at one point in time.

However, Blau’s own research has featured similar findings–women’s earnings remain flatter over time, which creates a wider gender pay gap as they grow older. She offers some possible explanations:

1. The initial differences may be due to market segregation. Men are more concentrated in high-paying fields like engineering and software development, while women are over-represented in jobs like nursing and teaching, which feature lower earnings over time. Blau says women may also be more likely to take jobs at smaller or lower-paying firms.

2. There may be a glass ceiling. “As they advance, women may encounter some obstacles and difficulties that men don’t,” says Blau. She notes it might be subtle or even unconscious discrimination about who’s the better fit for apromotion or high-level position.

3. Women’s slowing wages at age 30 may correlate with having children. Blau notes that some women may drop out of the labor force for a time or reduce their hours when they have young children. However, she adds that the amount of time women take for kids is often related to their incentives. If a woman feels her career options aren’t as good, she may take more time for family life.

4. Women may also receive lower salary offers than men, negotiate less successfully, and be more likely to stay with one employer for longer, rather than looking elsewhere for better offers.

Blau agrees that the data isn’t rosy but says there’s been enormous improvement over the last few decades, as more women have moved into professional occupations and the wage gap narrowed from 60% to 80%, providing hope that continued progress is possible.

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  1. We aren’t quite there yet!

  2. icittadiniprimaditutto says:

    Reblogged this on i cittadini prima di tutto.

  3. This is really informative…thanks!

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