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Women with elite educations less likely to work full time

Wednesday, April 10, 2013   (0 Comments)
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Women who hold degrees from elite universities are less likely to work full time than their professional counterparts from non-elite schools, according to a new study by Vanderbilt University.

Sixty percent of women graduating from the nation's more selective institutions work full time, compared to 68 percent of women graduates from other schools, according to "Opting Out among Women with Elite Education,” by Joni Hersch, a professor of law and economics at Vanderbilt University. The working-hours gap grows among women with master’s degrees: 66 percent of women who graduate from tier-one institutions then earn master's degrees are employed full time, while 82 percent of women graduates from non-elite institutions who have master's degrees are full-time employees.

Parenting strongly influences career choices as well. Among female graduates from elite schools, married women without children are 20 percent more likely to be employed than those with children. Among women who graduate from non-elite schools, married women without children are 13.5 percent more likely to be employed than those with children.

The largest gap in full-time labor market activity is among working mothers who hold master of business administration degrees. Married MBA mothers with bachelor's degrees from elite schools are 30 percent less likely to work full time than graduates from non-elite schools, which, Hershey said, is a hindering factor for women's professional advancement.

"Elite workplaces, like Fortune 500 companies, prefer to hire graduates of elite colleges,” Hersch said. "Thus, lower labor market activity of MBAs from selective schools may have both a direct effect on the number of women reaching higher-level corporate positions as well as an indirect effect, because a smaller share of women in top positions is associated with a smaller pipeline of women available to advance through the corporate hierarchy.”

One factor in the lower percentage of women from elite schools in the pipeline maybe their choice of spouses. Women who graduate from elite schools are more likely to marry men who graduate from similar schools, with similar education levels and parental wealth. With their spouses bringing greater non-labor assets and a generally higher expected labor income to the marriage, many of these women may be influenced to opt out of full-time careers.

The study, which analyzes U.S. Census data, defined elite schools according to quality indicators such as entering class SAT scores, range of degrees awarded, programs offered and categories of competitiveness.

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