These ratings are nontrivial. According to a new study in Social Science Research covered by Tom Jacobs for Pacific Standard, graduating from schools at different tiers of the six-point scale has large differences in earning potential. Graduates from the highest tier earned 21 percent more than those from the lowest-ranking schools, and 11 percent more than those from second-tier institutions.
The data comes from two cohorts of four-year graduates who answered the question “what is your current salary?” for the National Center for Education Statistics. The first 3,840 people, who got their bachelor’s in 1992 or 1993, were interviewed a decade later, and a later group of 4,670 grads, who matriculated in 2007 or 2008, were interviewed four years later. All these respondents answered this among other questions.
The kicker: The ladies who graduated from elite colleges earned 16 percent less than the guys — in both groups.
Authors Dirk Witteveen and Paul Attewell, both of the City University of New York, explain:
… for the 1993 cohort ten years after graduation, full-time employed women with a BA degree from the most selective colleges earned $62,210, about as much as men who graduated from the least selective schools (who earned $63,923).
This very large gender earnings penalty also appears four years after graduation: in 2012, women with a degree from most or highly selective colleges earned $52,293, while their male counterparts who graduated from the lowest selectivity institutions averaged $55,346.
After taking a breath to acknowledge how screwed up that is, one must ask why that disparity might be. Northwestern sociologist Lauren Rivera has also found that high-end education disproportionately benefits men. She attributes it to the “commitment penalty”: the people doing the hiring at fancy firms (read: old, privileged white guys) assume that accomplished women are really after a husband and some kids, meaning they’re not down to scrape out long hours, meaning they get passed over for a dude whose background better reflects theirs. Privilege is invisible, and it replicates itself.