The “Gap-Within-a-Gap”: How Education Affects the Gender Wage Gap

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Men in Seattle are earning significantly more money than women with the same education levels and in the same profession, Chris Winters of YES! Magazine reported in August 2017.  “The gender-pay gap in Seattle nearly inversely correlates to women’s level of education,” Winters reported. “In other words, the higher the degree a woman has, the larger gap in pay exists between her and men with the same level of education.”

In 2016, the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that women in the Seattle region earned 78.6 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. This mirrored the national average in the gender wage gap. But, as Winters reported, a Seattle company, LiveStories, took a closer look at the data and found that the differences between men’s and women’s wages actually increased with higher levels of education. According to the LiveStories study, Seattle women with only a high school diploma experience a slight difference in wages, compared to similarly educated men wages (84 cents for every dollar earned by men), but women with college degrees earned just 72 cents per dollar. Wages decreased to 68 cents on the dollar for women with professional degrees. As Winters reported, “Even after accounting for college major, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status,” differences in earnings by gender persisted.

This “gap-within-a-gap” trend appears to be particular to Seattle, Winters wrote. LiveStories compared Seattle with other similarly sized cities—including Baltimore, Boston, and Denver—and found that effect was “most pronounced” in Seattle.

Winters examined the causes of the gendered wage gap in general and the Seattle case in particular. Acknowledging that there is “no easy explanation,” he noted parenting and other familial responsibilities as two widely acknowledged factors for the wage gap between men and women. However, “neither of those factors taken singly or together accounts for the entire gender gap.” Addressing the “gap-within-a-gap” found in Seattle, Winters noted that, according to an American Association of University Women study, Washington is one of fourteen states with “weak” equal pay laws.

In May, 2016, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the gender wage gap in elite, white-collar jobs. Unlike the Journal’s coverage, Winter’s YES! Magazine article also focused on disparities in earnings across different ethnic groups.

Source: Chris Winters, “The More Education, the Wider the Gender Pay Gap—Wait, What?” YES! Magazine, August 7, 2017,

Student Researchers: Merissa Valenzuela and Sarah Hernandez (Citrus College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)