Monday, March 28, 2005

Explaining women's earning power

The New York Times has an an interesting little article today. It reports that college-educated black women and Asian women make more, on average, than college educated white women. The article suggests one explanation for this: minority women more often work more than one job. I haven’t seen the data and I don’t know work habits among races, but I wonder if there’s not another explanation.

I wonder if part of the discrepancy may be due to differentials in access to college educations among the different racial groups. I’m inclined to assume that more white women with more diversity of skill levels have historically had access to college educations than either black or Asian women. Whether it’s due to racial discrimination, socio-economic differences or other factors, I’d make a bet that a greater percentage of white women go to college than minority women. This is not to say that white women are more or less smart or skilled than minority women; merely that they have more opportunities to go to college. As a result, more white women of differing abilities are graduating from college, entering the workforce and experiencing differing levels of success therein.

Conversely, college access among black and Asian women has been less universal. As a result, it’s possible that fewer “average” minority women and more “above average” minority women are graduating from college. Perhaps these “above average” minority women are experiencing higher success rates than white women and thus earning more. If this is true, and there aren’t other factors at play, it suggests that median incomes among women of different races will approach the average for women as a whole once college access becomes universal.

Anyway, that’s just a thought. I don’t know if it’s right or not, and would welcome any critiques. If I am right, though, the data does suggest that employers are not discriminating among women of different races. That’s a very positive thing. On the other hand, the data still shows the traditional income discrepancies between males and females. I consider that a huge negative. However, feminist that I am, I’m doing my part to keep that gap small on the household level. Of the 6 years the lovely and I have been together, I’ve earned more than her for only one...