Revealing the concealed effect of top earnings on the gender gap in the economic value of higher education in the united states, 1980–2017

Hadas Mandel, Assaf Rotman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The expansion of women’s educational attainment may seem to be a promising path toward achieving economic equality between men and women, given the consistent rise in the economic value of higher education. Using yearly data from 1980 to 2017, we provide an updated and comprehensive examination of the gender gap in education premiums, showing that it is not as promising as it could and should be. Women receive lower rewards to their higher education across the entire wage distribution, and this gender gap increases at the very top education pre­mi­ums—the top quar­ter and, even more so, the top dec­ile. Moreover, insuf­fi­cient theoretical and methodological attention to this top premium effect has left gender inequal­ity concealed in the exten­sive empir­i­cal stud­ies on the topic. Specifically, when we artificially cen­sor the top at the 80th wage per­cen­tile, the gen­der gaps in education premium reverse. Lastly, the growth in earnings inequality in the United States, which is greatly affected by the expansion of top earnings, is associated with the growing gender gap in education premiums over time. We discuss the meaning and implications of this structural disadvantage at a time when women’s educational advantage keeps growing and higher education remains the most important factor for economic attainment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-570
Number of pages20
JournalDemography
Volume58
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Devaluation
  • Education premium
  • Gender inequality
  • Glass ceiling
  • Returns to education

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