Study: More Education Won’t Solve Gender Pay Gap

Three college students studying outsideImproved educational access and outcomes for women are not likely to end the worldwide gender pay gap, according to a new study published in the Journal of African Development.

Why Education Won’t End the Gender Pay Gap

Lead researcher Stephanie Seguino looked at education, wage, and employment data on more than 150 countries covering the years 1990-2010. Although the educational gap between women and men is only 9%, women are employed at 70% the rate of men—a 30% gap. In some regions of Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, the gap is even higher. Job segregation continues to be a problem, according to the study, with women often participating in relatively low-paid, low-status occupations.

In more than half of the world, women have educational attainments similar to or greater than those of men. According to 2015 data from the United States Census Bureau, more women than men now hold bachelor’s degrees. Among people ages 25-34, 37.5% of women have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 29.5% of men.

Women’s political representation rate compared to men is 25%. Seguino believes this can worsen gender inequality, because governments in which men are disproportionately represented are more likely to spend money on programs that benefit men.

Understanding the Gender Pay Gap

The gender wage gap varies from nation to nation and profession to profession, but one constant remains: women have average earnings lower than men’s average earnings worldwide. According to a 2014 World Economic Forum report, Burundi has the narrowest gender pay gap, with women earning 83% of what men earn in the same jobs. The same report ranked the U.S. 65th worldwide, with women earning 65% of what men do for similar jobs. Denmark was the only nation where women earned more than men, with a wage gap favoring women by 2%.

In another study, researchers found women made less than men on eBay, even when all other factors—including eBay experience and the items being sold—were the same.

The pay gap can also have far-reaching implications for women’s mental health. A 2016 study found the wage gap might help explain why women are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition than men.

What Can Fix the Pay Gap?

Seguino says gender stereotypes and issues such as inadequate child care may figure more prominently than education in the gender pay gap.

The study suggests some measures that could help. Countries that have prioritized gender equality have achieved better outcomes. Canada requires the government to ensure women are represented at 50%. Norway requires equitable representation of women on company boards. In addition to these measures, the study recommends increased access to affordable child care, hiring practices that promote diversity, improved access to and quality of public transportation, and paid parental leave.


  1. Bauman, K., & Ryan, C. (2015, October 7). Women now at the head of the class, lead men in college attainment. Retrieved from
  2. Seguino, S. (2016). Global trends in gender equality [PDF]. Journal of African Development, 1-30.
  3. The global gender gap report 2014 [PDF]. (2014). Geneva: World Economic Forum.
  4. Why education doesn’t bring women equal pay. (2016, April 15). Retrieved from

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  • brennan


    April 21st, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    If not education then what? Because last time I checked it is usually going to be with better education and social role models that people will begin to see that the stereotypes that they hold against people of a different sex or race are not reasonable or anywhere near correct.

  • Hildy


    April 23rd, 2016 at 3:40 PM

    I have been curious if the pay gap is more across the board or is it something that you see in certain careers but not necessarily all of them. I mean, it seems like women have had just as much equality as men for a very long time. I have never once felt that I have been denied an opportunity simply because I am a female. Sure I have been turned down for jobs and raises before, I think that we all have been, but I never think that it is about me being a woman. How about maybe I am not qualified to do that job as well as someone else could be. Or maybe I don’t have the experience that some employers are looking for. I am not looking to place blame on someone for something when I don’t even believe that this is always the issue!

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