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Chart: A higher education doesn’t fix race and gender pay gaps

A higher education doesn't close the massive racial and gender disparities in what people earn.

This chart, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the differences in how much men, women, and several racial groups earn:

The chart shows large disparities in two categories: race and sex. Black Americans with advanced degrees make roughly the same as white Americans with only bachelor's degrees. And women with advanced degrees make less than men with only bachelor's degrees.

Numerous studies confirm these disparities. In one study, researchers sent out otherwise identical resumes under stereotypically "white" and stereotypically "black" names; the white names were 50 percent more likely to be called back for interviews. Another study found that white people perceive "black" Americans as being less competent and having a less inviting personality than "African Americans," which could hinder the job prospects of people who identify as black on a job application by, say, noting their membership in a "Black Student Union." And these two studies are only a couple of many more examples.

The research on the gender wage gap tells a similar story. After controlling for factors like race and occupation, Evan Soltas found women make about 4 to 10 percent less than men. But Vox's Matt Yglesias explains why controlling for all these factors misses part of the story:

Life is complicated. Any summary statistic is, by definition, going to be an effort to simplify that reality. And it is absolutely true to say that pay discrimination on the part of employers between the women they employ and the men they employ only accounts for a minority of the gap. But the statistical controls that reveal that don't make the problem of the wage gap go away. They help us identify where it exists.

The same applies with all these statistics — whether they touch on sex or race. But at least with the BLS data, we can rule out level of education as being the only factor behind the massive earnings disparities.