The U.S. Education Gap

Educational attainment in the United States has risen substantially over the last four decades. Between 1970 and 2014, the share of men ages 25 and older with at least a college degree climbed from 14 percent to 32 percent, while the share of adult women with at least a college degree quadrupled from 8 percent to 32 percent. For ages 25 to 29 only, the share of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher actually started outpacing the share for men in 1991. But women still lag behind men in earnings. Among full-time, year-round workers ages 25 and older in 2013, women’s median earnings were about 79 percent of men’s, up from 71 percent in 1993. This gender earnings gap persists across all educational levels. For bachelor’s degree holders, one factor may be that women are less likely to get degrees in higher-earning fields such as science and engineering. In 2013, among adults ages 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree, only 26 percent of women had a degree in science and engineering, compared with 44 percent of men. However, even among full-time, year-round workers with engineering degrees, women’s median earnings in 2011 were only 83 percent of men’s.