27 February 2010

Salaries & Majors & Gender

I saw a study a while back which I can't put my finger on now that managed to explain a majority of the salary gap between college educated men and women based on the different subjects men and women tend to major in.  Since, for instance, chemical engineering graduates tend to be very well compensated, and there are more men than women studying CHEG, it skews the aggregate salaries in favor of men.

Noah Brier at Barbarian Blog has a link to some data at Sociological Images which breaks down salaries within majors.  Unfortunately it doesn't also give the proportion of each gender studying each subject, but at least among topics colloquially thought to be male-dominated, womens' starting salaries are higher.  The 25 majors listed with higher salaries for women are

  • agricultural science
  • management information systems
  • marketing
  • advertising
  • computer programming
  • computer science
  • computer systems analysis
  • physical education
  • aerospace/aeronautical engineering
  • bioengineering & biomedical
  • chemical engineering
  • electrical engineering
  • environmental engineering
  • industrial technology
  • industrial engineering
  • materials engineering
  • mechanical engineering
  • mining & mineral engineering
  • nuclear engineering
  • petroleum engineering
  • systems engineering
  • nursing
  • clothing/apparel/textile studies
  • history

I would say 20 of those 25 are traditionally thought to be male-dominated.

Granted, that doesn't even rise to the level of back-of-the-envelop calculations, but I still find it interesting.  Frankly, the analysis presented by Sociological Images from Kent Gilbreath's work aren't exactly sophisticated either.  It's pretty basic to just sort every major into Category A (with M > F) and Category B (with F > M) without regard to the magnitude of the differences.  Based on the data here men make more than women after studying architectural engineering, but only by $314, or 0.65% of the average woman's starting salary.

Not to disparage Gilbreath.  I have no idea if he did more analysis in his papers, and I don't have time to check them out.  But as reprinted by Sociological Images, I wouldn't draw too strong of conclusions from this.  Nonetheless, something to rub your chin and think on.

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