Graduates listen to a commencement address in May at Barnard College in New York.
Women who land jobs right out of college earn just 82 percent of what their male colleagues are paid after one year, the American Association of University Women reports.
The wage gap is often attributed to men choosing higher-salaried positions than women, so researchers focused on the time when workers are most likely to be making the same amount—just out of college, without experience and likely without families to support. Of 15,000 full-time employees working in 2009, the average female earned $35,296, while the average male made $42,918, researchers found.
The disparity means women have a more difficult time paying off student loans, considering that the amount of debt did not vary with gender, the study notes.
Even when men and women had the same majors, there were often gaps in pay. The researchers found that female business majors earned an average of slightly more than $38,000, while men earned just over $45,000. In engineering, technology, computer science and social sciences fields, researchers found that women made between 77 percent and 88 percent of what their male colleagues were paid. (The health-care and education fields were credited for paying men and women about the same.)
But the overall gap — the 18-percentage-point disparity — could be explained by career choices; men are more likely to enter high-paying fields such as engineering and computer science. The researchers controlled for that, along with other variables, but an “unexplained” 6.6-percentage-point gap remained.