College-educated women earn $8,000 less a year than men as gap widens
Business woman gives thumbs down (Shutterstock)

The gender wage gap among 2016 graduates has increased, as men make about $4 more an hour than women, according to Economic Policy Institute study

The gender wage gap is not shrinking – it’s growing. Female college graduates now earn $8,000 a year less than their male contemporaries, a gap that has widened in the past 16 years, according to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute.

Related: Calling for equal pay, Hillary Clinton shares little about her own experience

“Young male college graduates earned 8.1% more in 2016 than in 2000, while young female college graduates earned 6.8% less than in 2000,” according to Elise Gould , senior economist at EPI and one of the report’s authors.

“That gender wage gap has increased in a meaningful way,” Gould said. “If you just look at their wages in 2016, on average young men who are college graduates are making $20.94 compared to $16.58 for women. That’s a difference of more than $4. Over the year, that’s more than $8,000.”

According to Gould, this is due to the fact that men in higher positions are driving up wages for men lower on the totem pole as well. For women, however, the wage gap gets wider as they move further up the pay scale.

Overall, women earn less than men. According to the US census , women were still earning just 79% of men’s wages in 2014.

Critics of the gender wage gap theory point out that the discrepancy in pay between men and women is due to the types of careers women opt for. Meaning that women are more likely to work in lower-paying jobs like retail, fast food, teaching or nursing.

“It’s an interesting idea when you say that out loud. Women chose lower paying jobs. Who would chose a lower paying job? How does that even make sense?” said Gould. She added that it’s true women might be likely to select different majors than men and that men tend to end up in higher professions.

“It’s still remains a fact that even within occupations, even within let’s say finance, women are making less than men. So some of it is because of the major or occupation that somebody chose, but those could also be driven by discrimination at younger ages.”

According to her, there is a lack of encouragement for women to go into Stem fields – science, technology, engineering and math. These fields, which tend to be dominated by men, are associated with higher paid positions.

“Some say there isn’t really a gender pay gap. Well, that is just wrong,” said former secretary of state Hillary Clinton , when she appeared on a panel discussing equal pay last week. She, too, conceded that higher paying fields like engineering, science and mathematics can often be unwelcoming to women.

Related: Class of 2015: women are still making less than men – and prospects are poor

Gould also pointed out that the economy is filled with people who do not have a college degree. A strong economy caters to these workers – usually high-school graduates – and provides them with good jobs in which they can build a stable career, she said.

College graduates make up less than a third of US population. In 2014, 29.9% of men and 30.2% of women had graduated college. According to the US Census Bureau , it was “the first year that women’s college attainment was statistically higher than men’s college attainment”. Similarly, 65.8% of Americans aged 24 to 29 do not have a college degree, according to EPI’s report.

However, female high school graduates are faced with narrower gender wage gap.

“Gender wage gap among high school grads has been closing over the last several years. That’s due to the fact that women have been bolstered by minimum wage increases in cities and states,” explained Gould, pointing out that women account for 55.9% of workers earning minimum wage. “It’s growing among college grads.” © Guardian News and Media 2016