Worthwhile Reads: Mapping the Glass Ceiling

I just found a fascinating article on a New York Times economic blog called “Mapping the Glass Ceiling.” The article presents the graph below, which shows the income growth of college educated men and women by age:

As the article explains,

College-educated men and women start out with a sizable gap in their pay — $40,800 versus $31,900, respectively — but both men and women see their earnings rise more or less in tandem at the start of their careers. In fact, in percentage terms, women’s pay raises initially outpace men’s, and then become about equal by age 30.

At age 30, both college-educated men and college-educated women have experienced wage growth of almost exactly 60 percent, compared to what they earned at age 22. The typical 30-year-old male college grad working full-time receives $65,300 annually, and his female counterpart receives $51,000.

Then, at age 30, college-educated women are likely to start having children. Not coincidentally, that’s also when women’s earnings growth starts to slow. Meanwhile, men’s earnings growth remains about steady.

Click the link to read the whole thing!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Antigone10

    So, in other words, children have a hefty opportunity cost (at least, for women) as well as a lot of painful up-front costs and maintenance costs. Good to know (not really going to change my mind about having them- I still am not going to).

  • http://autistscorner.blogspot.com Lindsay

    Hi, Libby Anne!

    There’s another study that’s getting a lot of coverage on blogs lately, that might also play into why women seem to stall out and plateau earlier than men when it comes to salary.

    It’s written up in The Atlantic here, and the abstract of the actual study is here. (I’m told you can get the full text at that link, but I can’t figure out how!)

    What they find is that men in traditional marriages, where the husband works and the wife stays at home doing housework/taking care of kids, are more likely than other men to pass over women for promotions, have problems with women in authority, and generally not deal well with female colleagues/employees. (It’s the first thing, the passing over for promotions — and, one extrapolates, raises — that I think is most relevant to the graph you posted).

    I imagine that the higher you go on the socioeconomic scale, the more of these men you wind up working with (and for).

    • Carolyn the Red

      I’ve read that one – it’s depressing. Even if you’re not a “traditional” woman you will be treated as if you are one, or should be one. And in my field, most men are in traditional marriages….

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    lol, all this is deplorable but, honestly, the first thought I had when looking at the chart was “Wow, ALL these salary numbers look high.” The average 22-YEAR-OLD woman fresh out of college is pulling over 30,000? I’m gonna go cry now…

    Ah, the joys of the non-profit sector…

  • Rosa

    we had this argument last night; i want to go back to school, partner thinks it’s too expensive plus then I’m not working for longer. He actually said “It’s like you make less money every year since we had the baby!” I totally lost it and told him fine, if he switched to a job with regular 8-5 hours then I could get a nice full time job too and make real money instead of having to be parenting from 2-7 every day so he can work 10 hour days and someone can be here after school.

  • smrnda

    Yeah, those numbers look way to high – I mean, I know lots of college grads who have never made more than say, 35,000 a year. I don’t deny that some college degrees can land salaries like that but I can hardly think it’s average – maybe for someone with a degree in engineering but what % of college grads are earning that kind of money?

    The other thing is that unless we see major shifts in people’s attitudes I don’t think it’s going to change. The system is clearly rigged against women advancing in their careers since most of the extra work that comes from having children is going to go to the woman. Plus, a lot of men with traditional attitudes might be consciously deciding not to advance women – a guy with a stay at home wife who expects to be waited on hand and foot is going to think a woman who takes time off for family concern doesn’t deserve advancement, but he isn’t admitting that he’s dependent on the same type of woman. I think that part of it is that some men just don’t want women to win.

    • Carolyn the Red

      The numbers don’t look that high to me – the undergrads in my program average over $50,ooo in their entry level jobs. That’s Computer Science, but a lot of the other science and engineering programs have starting wages over $40,000. Sure, some programs lead to lower wages, but depending on the field and the cost of living in the location, there’s a lot of grads earning those wages. Hell, I think my first job out of university (studied mathematics) had a salary of about $50,000. Nurses start at $20/hour, the lowest teacher salaries are ~$40,000. Even the social worker-like employees at the non-profit where I volunteer make >$15/hour. Regional variation?

      But to the other point, a man with traditional attitudes might expect women to take time off for family, and not actually see that the specific woman in front of them isn’t the primary parent in their family, or not currently the parent of young children. That kind of man will expect other men to have the same set-up at home as well – they’d be like my friend’s boss, who complained about a male employee taking three weeks parental leave, and roll eyes and not promote a man who leaves on time to pick up the kids. Which, of course, might push the families working for him into a more traditional mold, and perpetuate the cycle.

  • jemand

    well, it doesn’t say, but that’s probably mean, not median wage. For a while now… that has been shifted high due to the increasing inequality of the US economy… as the 1% pulls away from the rest, the “mean” incomes become such that only a few people *actually* make it. It’s just there is a small population that makes SOOO much more than the rest of us, the average gets pulled way up.


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