Pay disparity between women and men after enrolling in college persists across public and private universities.(iStock)

Men make more money just six years after enrolling in college than women do 10 years after entering schools, a wage gap that persists across public and private four-year universities, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for American Progress, a left leaning think tank.

The study used data from the College Scorecard, a government database that includes earnings for students who received financial aid, to gauge how quickly the gender wage gap sets in after college. The analysis focuses on students who entered school in 2001 or 2002, the most recent cohort that includes six-year and 10-year data, and found men at the six-year mark pulling in roughly $4,000 a year more that women at 10 years.

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“We know there’s a gender wage gap, but this visualizes what that looks like at every college,” said Antoinette Flores, author of the study and a policy analyst at the Center. Flores created an interactive database that lets people look up  the average earnings by gender at every public and nonprofit private four-year school.

Wage disparities are especially acute at the nation’s most elite private schools. Men who attended universities such as Harvard, Stanford and Princeton on average earn $26,000 a year more than their female classmates a decade after enrolling. Harvard women bring home an annual salary of $54,045 less than Harvard men 10 years after starting school. Still, women at elite colleges or premier research institutions have the highest earnings, with an average salary of $75,000 10 years out compared with an average of $44,000 among women from other private nonprofit schools.

Among public colleges, the wage gap ranges from a high of $13,000 a year for research universities to $10,000 for other state schools. Women who attended elite public colleges earn an average of $50,000 a year after 10 years compared with an average of $39,000 among women from other public colleges.


Flores said there is no single reason why the wage gap exists, but she suspects college majors and occupations play a role. Men may have landed jobs in high-paying fields, such as engineering or finance, but it is difficult to tell since the College Scorecard does not break down earnings by occupation or major.

Differences in who enrolls in graduate school and what they study might also affect the disparity in pay. And women leaving the workforce to care for children and then returning to work could also put a damper on pay, the study said. As a result, Flores said paid family leave and high-quality child care could help narrow the wage gap.

“There are a number of policy solutions that are in the limelight right now, equal pay is one, access to child care is another,” Flores said. “But this study also shows the colleges can take a look at some of the differences in outcomes and keep students informed.”

There are a few colleges where women earn more than men, but earnings for all students are significantly lower than other colleges. Of the 36 schools in this category, 25 of them are historically black colleges and universities, where women earned an average $6,500 a year more than men and average annual salaried ranged from $30,000 to $54,000, according to the study. A part of the wage gap at HBCUs may be caused by higher graduation rates among women.

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