The gender gap starts at Princeton admissions
June 5, 2014  

At schools across the country, the Class of 2014 has just graduated. And at Harvard, a survey shows that The Pay Gap for Women Starts at Graduation:

Across all fields, 19 percent of men said they would be making $90,000 or more after graduation, compared with 4 percent of women. It's easy to look at that stat and say, OK, that's because there are more guys in banking, engineering, and tech.

But here's the thing: The survey says “a plurality” of women in technology and engineering said they will be making between $50,000 and $69,999. The guys in the same field? A plurality said they would be making between $90,000 and $109,999. At the low end, that's an 80 percent difference. But 80 percent is ridiculous. At the high end it's 57 percent.

I contend that the pay gap actually starts much earlier: there is a gap as students transition from high school to college at elite universities. For Princeton it looks like this:

The gap between these lines shows that women are going to college at a much higher rate than they are going to college at Princeton. Princeton graduates are highly paid; based on survey data, PayScale ranks Princeton 7th on “return on investment” among U.S. colleges and universities. In other words, women who are turned down from Princeton are very likely to earn less money in their careers than if they had attended Princeton.

The usual argument against the existence of a gender gap says that the real reason for any discrepancy in pay is that women are making different life choices—they are choosing to have children and drop out of the work force, or choosing lower-paying professions. I don't buy that, but in fairness to Princeton, women are applying to Princeton at a lower rate than men:

So even though more women than men are going to college overall, more men than women are applying to Princeton. These numbers don't tell us anything about the quality of the men and women applying, of course.

The good thing is that this is easy to change: Princeton can encourage more women to apply, and the Admissions Office can accept more women if it wants to.

(Previously, previously, previously, previously.)