This Is The Age College-Educated Women Make The Most Money

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Maricar Santos via Working Mother
Maricar Santos via Working Mother
May 19, 2024 at 4:50AM UTC
Not too pleased with your current money situation? You may start earning more than you'll ever make during your career sooner than you think.
According to a new study from Payscale, by age 40, women who have finished college tend to reach their earnings peak, CNBC reports. Men, meanwhile, reach theirs later at age 49.
Reaching your peak earnings age sooner isn't actually better for women, however. The study found college-educated men still earn more off the bat. At age 22, they're making a median salary of $50,200 a year, compared to the $39,800 a year their female counterparts take home—a $10,400 difference. While college-educated women experience a slightly faster growth in pay from ages 22 to 32, compared to college-educated men, their earnings growth starts to slow down at age 33 during which their male counterparts' earnings remain steady. And at their respective peak earning ages, women who have finished college have a median salary of just $67,000, compared to men with the same education level, whose median salary is $102,000 per year.
This isn't the first time Payscale has tried to identify the pinnacle earnings age for men and women. In 2010, they found that men's salaries peak at age 48 and women's salaries peak at age 39. Based on the recent findings, it seems college-educated men and women are just waiting an extra year for their top earnings to start kicking in.
PayScale's vice president of data analytics Katie Bardaro speculates that the differences in women and men's earnings growth has to do with the types of careers women tend to pursue. Bardaro tells CNBC, "For women, the jobs that tend to be more common — whether it be nurses, teachers, social workers or administrative assistants — tend to be jobs that see a fair amount of pay growth in the early part of their career, but then it just levels off." She also says that men are more concentrated in jobs that pay more and will make them more money over time, like software developer or engineer.
The American Association of University Women, however, says the gender pay gap may actually be the reason for the differences. They tell CNBC, "Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that, median earnings for women are typically 74–82 percent of what men are paid. At every level of academic achievement, women's median earnings are less than men's median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education."
But we have an inkling that motherhood — and the negative perceptions regarding working moms' commitment to their jobs—may have something to do with the numbers too. The Payscale study said that at age 33, women's salary growth starts to slow down, and early 30s is the around the time they're mostly likely to have young children. Researchers have found that in addition to the gender pay gap hurting their earnings, women may also have to deal with a motherhood penalty when they start having kids. The penalty may be behind a decrease in moms' wages with each child they have, because they're perceived by their employer to be less committed to their jobs than colleagues without kids. There's also the fact that many women have to leave the workforce so they can take care of their kids because of factors such as the high cost of childcare and corporate barriers preventing them from moving up in their careers, or if they don't leave their careers completely, they may only work part-time, meaning less earning potential.
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