MSU Report: More Women in White-Collar Jobs, Yet Continue to Lag in Wages


Women are more likely than men to have a bachelor’s degree and a white-collar job, yet they continue to earn less than their male counterparts, says a new study released by Michigan State University.

“Women have eliminated the gender gap in some respects,” says Stephanie Nawyn, a co-author of the study and a professor of sociology at Michigan State. “They now have more college education then men. They have higher occupational status than men. But it’s problematic when you realize that women have still not completely closed the earnings gap.”

Nawyn and her colleagues analyzed U.S. Census socioeconomic data of more than 180,000 people at two points in time, 1980 and 2005. In 1980, men led women by a significant margin in bachelor’s-degree attainment, white-collar jobs, and earnings. By 2005, Nawyn says the story flipped, with Asian, Latina, and white women overtaking men in bachelor’s-degree attainment and white-collar jobs.

“Women have increased their mobility across generations better than men have,” Nawyn says. “In this sense, there has been a gender revolution.”

However, she says, women’s progress did not translate into earnings equality. In 2005, women on average earned $39,500 per year, while men earned $51,000. The gap was largest between white men and women, at more than $14,000.

The study also looked at gaps between ethnic groups. Both white men and women, for example, are much more likely to get a bachelor’s degree and a white-collar job than Latino men and women.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Demography.​