Women in college-educated workforce make breakthrough, study finds

Women are expected to make up a majority of the college-educated labor force in the U.S. for the first time this year, according to new data analysis.

Though women have been the majority of college-educated adults in the U.S. since about 2007, women with degrees have lagged behind their male counterparts in the workforce until 2019, according to a Pew Research Center analysis published Thursday.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the organization found that there were 29.5 million women in the workforce with at least a bachelor’s degree in the first quarter of 2019, which is just slightly more than the 29.3 million college-educated men in the workforce.

That brings women to 50.2 percent of the college-educated workforce. In 2000, that workforce was only 45.1 percent female.

“This milestone matters for women because educational attainment is highly correlated with income,” the organization said.

Employees with at least a bachelor’s degree earned $61,300 in 2017, compared to “typical workers” who earned $41,900 according to the Census Bureau. However, that earnings gap is still greater for men than women, according to the Pew Research Center.

The value of a college degree also has greater economic implications.

According to the organization, which found that about 35 percent of adults older than 25 in the U.S. have college degrees, but they still produce 57 percent of earnings in the country, according to labor market earnings from 2017.

Women have been earning more degrees than men since the 1980s and, by 2007, women surpassed the majority of college-educated adults in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.

However, those women are less likely to be in the workforce than men with college degrees, which is why it has taken so long for women to reach equity in the college-educated labor force, the center suggested.

“In 2018, 69.9 percent of college-educated women were in the labor force, compared with 78.1 percent of college-educated men,” the center said.


Despite the overall findings, there are specific jobs where college-educated women continue to trail behind such as engineering or jobs with computers. Women with degrees also have a majority of positions such as health care practitioners and technicians and office and administrative support, according to the Pew Research Center.

“The growing number of college-educated women in the labor force translates into greater earning potential for women overall and could eventually contribute to the narrowing of the gender wage gap,” the organization said in its analysis.