Are Student Loans Harder on Women?

Michael Lux Best Of, Blog, News, Student Loans 12 Comments

Put simply, Yes.  Women suffer the negative consequences of student loans in greater numbers than men.  An analysis of college statistics, salary data, and sociological research shows that women deal with a greater student loan burden then men do.  Three primary factors lead to this outcome.

Women Still Make Less Then Men

Of late this has been a hot button political topic, but research suggests that women still make a fraction of the salary that men do in the same position.  This fact holds true even if you account for educational differences, experience levels, etc.

Thirty years ago women made 77 cents for every dollar a man made.  Today that number has climbed to 93 cents.

Despite the gains over the past three decades, the existing gap still represents a big hurdle in keeping up on student loans.

More Women Go To College

At every level of higher education, there are more women than men.  For example, over 3 out of 5 graduates from Master’s Degree programs are women.  That means over 60% of the people struggling with student debt from undergrad and a masters program are women.

The only way to get into student debt is to go to college.  With far more women in college than men, it means far more women are getting buried in student loans.

The Pay Gap Grows Over the Years

Not only do many women start out at a lower salary than their male counterparts, but as time progresses, the gap only widens.  Research shows that women are much more hesitant than men to try and negotiate higher salaries.  It turns out this hesitation is for good reason.  Not only do the numbers suggest that fewer women attempt to negotiate a higher salary, research shows that women are far more likely to experience negative consequences than men for such requests.

The gender pay gap in the legal field demonstrates how this can plan out.  Even though female students out number male law students, male lawyers still are paid more than female lawyers.  At the partnership level (the big earners at the large lawfirms), more men are promoted to partner than women, and the male partners make more than the female partners.  Thus, even in a field where men and women start on an arguably equal footing, as their careers progress, men advance in greater numbers and have greater salaries.

Are Student Loans a Women’s Issue?

It depends upon how you look at the issue.  Even if student loans disproportionately affect women, there is still a huge number of men struggling with student debt.

However, because women go to college in greater numbers, start at lower salaries, and have a more difficult time getting raises, there is no doubt about the gender more burdened by student loans.