The class of 2016 is graduating into the best job market in a decade. The number of businesses seeking to hire college graduates this year is the biggest it’s been since 2005, according to a survey out Thursday.
But if you’re a man graduating from college, your job prospects are even better. Coming straight out of college, men far outpace women when it comes to wages.
Male college graduates, between the age of 21 and 24, earned 8% more in 2016 than they did back in 2000. That itself seems like good news, except that it’s counterbalanced by losses for women; female counterparts in the workplace made 7% less than they did in 2000, according to a report released last week by the Economic Policy Institute. The average male college graduate earns $20.94 an hour; the average woman makes $16.58, according to EPI’s research.
The cause? Wages appear to be rising rapidly for men at the very top of the college pyramid, while they remain flat for everyone else, the researchers say.
“Growing inequality among those graduates is boosting up the average wage for men and contributing to the gender wage gap” wrote Elise Gould, a senior economist at EPI who coauthored the study.
Most of us already know that in the U.S., men on average earn more than women — at every income level — for a whole suite of reasons, including employment discrimination, discrepancies in the value of job and college majors, and work experience. Yet this most recent set of data from EPI indicates a new culprit — rising income inequality is pushing men and women’s wages further apart. Indeed, the gender wage gap is at its greatest among the highest-earning Americans.
Female college graduates earn only 79 cents on the male dollar, according to EPI. That gap is a bit smaller for women with only a high-school diploma — 92 cents on the dollar. In fact, women graduating from high school between the ages of 17-20 got a modest wage bump of 1.6% (since 2000). Meanwhile, their male counterparts saw their wages drop by 5.7% over the same period. EPI credits women’s wage growth to increases in the minimum wage passed in some states and cities in recent years — which predominantly impacts low-income women who work at the bottom of the wage pyramid.
Men at the bottom are faring the worse, largely because the number of well-paying manufacturing jobs for high-school graduates continues to drop.
Overall, the gaps highlighted in the survey are another flashpoint of worsening income inequality in the U.S. – a sign of not only of the gap between men and women, but also of the massive chasm between the very privileged and everyone else.
For most American workers, wages have been relatively flat, going nowhere for decades. For the top 1% of earners, though, things have basically never been better.
Frederic Liegl and Sabine Williams both just graduated from top notch colleges. Liegl will receive a degree in economics from the University of Chicago; Williams earned a bachelor’s from Brown University in December, with a major in ethnic studies.
This summer, Liegl plans to take a job in equity derivatives at a prominent bank in New York City. He did not disclose his pay, but the average starting salary in his industry is around $80,000 a year.
Williams, on the other hand, plans to live 40 miles north of the city at her parents’ house in Hartsdale, New York. She’s still job hunting — most of the available positions start around the $35,000-a-year— working part time at Starbucks, and doing some babysitting. While she’s had a few offers, nothing’s been a very good fit.
“I’m not saying I want the perfect job. But I’d like to find a job I won’t hate,” the 22-year-old explained to researchers.
Her chances are actually strong, according to a survey just published by jobs site CareerBuilder. 67% of employers noted that they plan to hire college grads this year, up from 65& last year. That number represents the best odds since the Great Recession.
“It’s looking rosier this year,” said Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s chief human resources officer.
More than half of these newly hired graduates will make $40,000 or less. A lucky 27% will earn $50,000 or more. Those top earners are likely to be STEM or business degree graduates.
Indeed, the most in-demand jobs are seeking graduates with degrees in business, computer sciences, engineering and math. Not coincidently, these are fields that overwhelmingly represent men, both at the university level and in the professional world. They’re also fields that recruit aggressively on campuses — making it easier for those men to land jobs.
Liegl was recruited on campus for his job. Williams, on the other hand, didn’t get much help at the university career office. “At my university, they gave no guidance for anyone that doesn’t want to go into finance, consulting or STEM [science, tech, engineering, math],” Williams said. “I’m more interested in nonprofit.”
EPI’s Gould confirmed that some of the gender wage gap can be attributed to choice of major and occupation, but that’s still not the full story. “It’s easy to dismiss this as ‘choice’ when I think that discrimination leads men and women into different fields,” Gould said. “Even within those higher-paying professions, women are still paid less.”