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Statistical Analysis Report:

Gender Differences in Earnings Among Young Adults Entering the Labor Market

April 1998

(NCES 98-086) Ordering information


In 1993, more women than men continued their education after high school: 55 percent of all postsecondary degrees and certificates were awarded to women (table 2). Women have also become more likely to work outside of the home. In 1981, 51 percent of married women participated in the labor force. By 1995, 61 percent of married women participated in the labor force./1/ However, at every level of education, from high school dropout to postgraduate degree earner, women earned less than men./2/

This analysis considers two factors that might have contributed to the earnings gap between men and women. Women were more likely than men to interrupt their careers for an extended period of time to take care of young children,/3/ and women were also more likely than men to prepare for jobs that historically have lower income potential./4/

This report examines earnings of men and women who worked consistently by their education level and the gender dominance of major field of study. A consistent worker was defined as one who worked at least 91.67 percent of the total months in the labor force after attaining his or her highest level of education./5/ Further, respondents who earned postsecondary certificates or higher were assigned to categories based on the dominant gender of graduates in their major fields of study. Gender dominance was based on the proportion of women or men in a major field of study. A major field of study was declared gender dominant if 65 percent or more of the program’s graduates were male or female.


[1] U.S. Department of Commerce. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1996. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, 1996), p. 399.
[2] Ibid, p. 471.
[3] U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau. 1993 Handbook on Women Workers: Trends and Issues. (Washington, D.C.: author, 1993), p. 74.
[4] Jerry Jacobs. Revolving Doors: Sex Segregation and Women's Careers. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989).
[5] Care should be taken in using these results as the data did not allow identification of part- and full-time workers.

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