Bad Decade for Male College Grads

For years I’ve been tracking the decline in the real earnings of college-educated workers. Now, with the latest income statistics, we can see just what the decade of the 2000s has wrought.

In terms of real earnings, male college graduates were absolutely pounded, taking a 9.7% decline in real pay from 2000-2010 (that’s bachelor’s only). Meanwhile female college grads saw no decline at all in real earnings. (we’re looking here at the real mean earnings of full-time workers 25 years and over).

For every educational category, the same pattern holds: Males doing worse than females in terms of change in real earnings. This is not directly related to the sharper job loss for men, since this data covers only full-time workers. However, it does provide corroborating evidence that the labor market seems to have moved against male-dominated industries and occupations, affecting the college educated as well as workers with only high school diplomas.

This is obviously not universal, given the high demand for computer and tech jobs, which tend to be male dominated. For example, 80% of computer software engineers are male. which should be a plus for male wages. But the ‘tech effect’ seems to be overpowered by the ‘health-education-effect’, since health and education occupations, which have done well over the past decade, are for the most part are disproportionately female.


  1. Deb Schultz says:

    But isn’t it true that female workers make less in average income than do their male counterparts? So perhaps, if that is indeed true, what we’re seeing is the realization on the part of businesses that they can pay men equally poorly without significant consequences. Or perhaps that giving a female a raise costs less.

  2. conventional wisdom suggesting on average women make less than their male counterparts is false. exclude women who opt for child rearing and the average is a statistical wash. perhaps rather than excluding those who lose earning power from the choice of child rearing, we could include the various subsidies for children, public and private, and have a substantive discussion of gender equality. men and women are not equal. check the equipment. such comparisons are oranges to rotten apples.

    regarding the post, the incomes for working age men have declined nearly 30% since the 70′s–comparable to the 30′s. meanwhile, incomes for the “elderly” have risen nearly 30% over the same period. there are more children in poverty than elderly. the critical disparities in wealth are not between men and women, rich and poor. they are between old and young. several generations of young have diminished expectations about the future, but for the oldest generations their expectations are non-negotiable. when it costs school districts more to maintain retiree obligations than educate a child, it is obvious society is investing its wealth in the past not the future.check out “The Fourth Turning” for an excellent discussion of the demographic factors that will continue to drive social, political, and economic fragmentation until addressed.

  3. This is simply a reflection of overjealous implementation of affirmative action policies by government and Fortune 500………but it is politically incorrect to state that.

  4. Interesting that male bachelors’ holders were hardest hit, but a good comparison would be to show from what base. Obviously the HS and associates’ degree holders were making much less, so they fell less from a lower base. Also, I suspect you’re leaving out another big drop by excluding those without any degree. We know that the US manufacturing sector lost almost 6 million jobs during the same timeframe, most of whom I’m guessing had at most a HS degree.

    The way I see it, globalization is increasing competition for manufacturing and information jobs and males compete in the most competitive markets that saw the most offshoring. However, female-dominated education and medicine are also information markets, but they are only temporarily protected by licensing and other regulations and the fact that it takes marginally more work to outsource a teacher than an accountant. All the regulations do is delay the inevitable change: the coming collapse in the US education and medical markets is going to be massive. It will coincide with a large increase in online work, so a lot of people will transition online, but there is a large minority that has been sitting coddled in protected markets for decades now, say many public school teachers, that will never regain their former earnings, which they largely gained by political graft more than any market valuation of their contributions.

  5. Government programs, like the H-1B and L-1 visas, have distorted labor markets. It must be nice to be a medical specialist with all of that government protection.

  6. It could be linked to the type of work done. F being good messengers are demanded in a distributing economy. The shift is not to track by the change in different industries but by the changing value creation content inside american offices.

  7. It is interesting that you found an increase in real earnings for those with doctorates between 2000 and 2010. Does this mean that the 10% decline that you found from 1999 to 2008 has ended and reversed?

    • Also, does that reflect the earnings of PhD’s employed by the private sector only? Or does it include education/research PhD’s?

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  1. [...] Tough times for male college grads.  (Michael Mandel) [...]

  2. [...] Bad Decade for Male College Grads « Mandel on Innovation and Growth [...]

  3. [...] Bad Decade for Male College Grads – Mike Mandel [...]

  4. [...] Real earnings for men, 25 to 34, with bachelor’s degrees are down 19 percent since 2000, and for female college graduates of that age they are down 16 percent since 2003. [...]

  5. [...] Real earnings for men, 25 to 34, with bachelor’s degrees are down 19 percent since 2000, and for female college graduates of that age they are down 16 percent since 2003. [...]

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