And even when they choose high-paying majors, women often don’t choose high-paying jobs. For example, math is a pretty lucrative major, and more than 40 percent of math majors are women. But women who major in math are much more likely than men to go into lower-paying professions, like teaching.
Midway through the conversation, I realized that the economist — Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University — was basically talking about me. I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And I’m working as a reporter at NPR.
“Oh, you left a lot of money on the table,” he told me. “You left probably as much as $3-to-$4 million on the table.”
Planet Money’s Lisa Chow talked to an economist who has been looking at how majoring in certain fields affects the incomes of graduates, and she discovered that women like herself who study what are supposed to be high-reward majors (in the monetary sense) often take lower-paying jobs after they graduate. Chow says she loves her job and that her job matters so much more than money. Of course, people don’t decide to study early childhood education or social work and think about the big bucks they’re going to make—it’s not always about that, which is why charts showing the highest paid majors aren’t always that helpful (oh, engineers make a lot of money, and studio art majors don’t? SURPRISE).