Close the Wage Gap by Changing Your Major

If today's young women want to close the wage gap, they should change their college majors. Aspiring early childhood educators or social workers should reconsider: the median earnings in these fields are $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise far more money: median earnings are $120,000 and $80,000. Here is a list of the 10 most remunerative majors compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Note that men overwhelmingly outnumber women in all but one major.

  • Petroleum Engineering: 87% Male
  • Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% Male
  • Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% Male
  • Aerospace Engineering: 88% Male
  • Chemical Engineering: 72% Male
  • Electrical Engineering: 89% Male
  • Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% Male
  • Mechanical Engineering: 90% Male
  • Metallurgical Engineering: 83% Male
  • Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% Male
  • And here are the 10 least remunerative majors. This time it is women who prevail in nine out of 10 majors.
  • Counseling Psychology: 74% Female
  • Early Childhood Education: 97% Female
  • Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% Female
  • Human Services and Community Organization: 81% Female
  • Social Work: 88% Female
  • Drama and Theater Arts: 60% Female
  • Studio Arts: 66% Female
  • Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% Female
  • Visual and Performing Arts: 77% Female
  • Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% Female

There are far more women than men in college, and they earned more than 58% of college degrees this year. If large numbers of female students changed from the second group to the first, that would do far more to narrow the gap than, say, the Paycheck Fairness Act. That Act (still floundering in Congress) primarily targets the allegedly sexist practices of employers. But, as most economists will tell you, employers cannot be blamed for much or any of the gap. It is women's choices that are the problem -- beginning with their college majors.

This blog is cross-posted at AEI Ideas.