Monday Morning Optimism 3/27/23
Happy Women's History Month
Welcome to our Monday Morning Optimism series. To start each week, we’ll send you an economic trend/fact/idea that shows how some aspect of the economy (or world) has improved over time. Want to sponsor a Monday Morning Optimism Post? Just reach out to me (Zack) at Zfritz@sagepolicy.com.
“The Future is Female” started as a lesbian separatist slogan in the 1970s, but it’s also a pretty fair assessment of the economy.
As you can see below, the female labor force participation rate has closed the gap with the male LFPR over the past 70+ years. The difference between the two reached an all-time low at 10.7 percentage points during the summer of 2022.
The gender wage gap reached an all-time low in April 2022, with women’s median earnings at 84% of men’s median earnings. After adjusting for inflation, women’s median earnings are up more than 30% since 1979. Men’s earnings, meanwhile, have fallen by 3.2% in real terms over that span.
I (Zack) think that this gap will keep closing. There’s no way to sugarcoat it—girls are better at school than boys are, and a college degree is associated with significantly higher earnings.
According to data from the World Bank, there were 130 women enrolled in U.S. colleges for every 100 men in 2020. That’s up from fewer than 70 women per 100 men in 1971. Women are also graduating from college at a much higher rate than men (49.9% compared to 39.7% of men graduate in four years).
Here’s what really makes me think the gender wage gap is going to close: women are now enrolling in the kind of graduate programs associated with big incomes at a higher rate than men are. Over each of the past four years, women have accounted for a majority of medical and law school students, according to data from the American Bar Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, respectively. Women currently account for an all-time high share of active lawyers (38%) and physicians (37.1%).
Yes, boys need to pick it up, and that’s an issue that’s getting more attention lately (if you’re really interested, see Richard V. Reeve’s recent book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling or David Brooks’ article The Crisis of Men and Boys).
For now, the future is as female as it’s ever been.
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