Job prospects rosier, especially for women
With the end of the year, many college seniors are stressing about their future employment – or lack thereof. They should relax a bit. The job market, overall, is looking up.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers publishes quarterly reports on college grads’ starting salaries by major. They claim their Spring 2005 Salary Survey shows that “average salary offers to new college graduates are climbing at a steady pace.”
Of the top 10 highest-paying majors, nine were engineering (the tenth was accounting). In general, science, engineering and business grads have higher starting salaries than liberal arts and social science grads.
But liberal arts students aren’t doing too poorly, because starting pay for liberal arts graduates is up 4.2 percent from last year, to $30,337. This follows a comparable increase in Fall 2004. English majors, moreover, beat out even the well-performing liberal arts group, with salaries soaring 8.1 percent in Fall 2004. Economists and financiers will see more of the money they love with a 5.1 percent pay hike. Virtually across the board, starting salaries are increasing.
At least, that’s what the raw numbers suggest. Some salaries are increasing slower than inflation (roughly three percent per year), meaning they’re decreasing in real terms. Psychology grads’ salary only rose a paltry two percent in Fall 2004, and that’s after an steep drop in Winter 2004. That’s tough for many seniors, since psychology is one of Wash U’s most popular majors. Similarly troubling for many is that biology majors’ salaries barely increased in Fall 2004.
And it’s probably be easier to find a job than last year, with the economy expanding. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 110,000 new non-farm jobs were created in March, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.2 percent. Unemployment among whites is even lower, but the average hourly wage is up far less than inflation.
Perhaps the bigger news, though, is that women who enter the work force will – perhaps for the first time in history – be earning equal pay (if not more) for equal work.
The oft-cited statistic is that women earn 80 cents on a man’s dollar. But this statistic means the sum total of all women’s income is 80 percent of the sum total of all men’s income. That’s not a helpful statistic, since it doesn’t tell us how the average woman’s salary compares to the average man’s when differences in education, responsibility, hours worked, etc. are accounted for.
Before even adjusting for those factors, women earn 93 cents per dollar men earn among 16- to 24-year-olds, according to BLS. When accounting for education, experience, and years on the job, women as a whole earn 98 percent of what men do, according to economist June O’Neill, who headed the Congressional Budget Office.
The overarching explanation for the wage gap is that men are more willing to sacrifice their personal lives for their job, says Warren Farrell in his new book “Why Men Earn More.” Farrell was thrice elected to the board of the National Organization for Women.
High-risk jobs like firefighting, truck driving and logging are 95 percent male, while low-risk jobs like secretarial work and childcare are 95 percent female. Furthermore, men are much more willing to travel extensively for their employer, work overtime and take dull jobs with little interpersonal interaction. Employers, of course, have to pay a premium to get men to make these major sacrifices. Working 45 hours a week, for example, nets a surprising 44 percent more pay than just working 40 hours a week.
In some cases, Farrell writes, women have it much better in the work place. They’re 15 times as likely to be senior executives in major companies before 40. Among never-married, college-educated workers, men earn 85 cents on a woman’s dollar. Finally, as part-time workers, women earn 10 percent more than men.
The gender pay gap thus seems to be a product of lifestyle choices rather than sex discrimination, which is great news for women. College women now know how to earn more money, if they so choose. They can’t go back and change majors to science and business, but they can work longer hours, take hazardous jobs and perhaps do an unfulfilling or boring job if they want to move up a tax bracket.
As for men, there’s no reason for them to feel guilty about their fat paycheck, since it’s due to sacrificing their personal life, not deeply rooted male privilege.
However, I have to ask my peers who will be making those sacrifices: what good is money if you don’t have a life?
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