Rob Long, over at the new conservative-opinion website Ricochet.com, has linked to a list of the worst-paying college majors. Among them are child and family studies, social work, and elementary education, along with music, art history, and graphic design.
What Rob doesn’t mention, and what immediately strikes me about these majors, is the gender dynamic at work. I don’t have any statistics at hand to prove it; but speaking from personal experience, I can attest that most of these majors are dominated by women. (My Art History classes in college were so packed full of estrogen that I used to walk out wondering where I had put my purse.)
Many women choose to take time out from their careers in order to pursue motherhood or tend to other family needs. Studies have shown that career interruption lowers the average salary for women, even if they return to work later. While they are out of the workforce for three, five, or ten years, their male co-workers continue to climb the corporate ladder, on the way toward higher salaries.
It may not be the case that the majors listed above actually produce lower salaries, so much as it is that the people who tend to choose these majors (that is, women) also tend to choose intermittent career paths — alternatively balancing work and family pursuits.