The Working Poor Has A Master’s Degree

Community-screenshot college classroomGrim news for academics. First, we discover, just in time for Equal Pay Day, that female professors are paid less than male ones. Not a little less, either. A lot less.

female lecturers and instructors are generally paid less than their male counterparts at four-year schools. At four-year private colleges, for example, the average 2013 salary for a male lecturer is $61,567, while the average for a female lecturer sits at $56,594. Even at the lowest rungs of the academic ladder, women are still making less than men. …

The pay gap persists even at liberal Ivy League institutions. Male full professors at Dartmouth College made an average of nearly $28,000 more than their female counterparts in the 2013-2014 academic year. Harvard may have a women’s center, a Women and Public Policy Program, a women’s studies program, and two women’s mentoring programs but they paid male full professors an average of about $15,000 more than female full professors that same year. The pay gaps at these elite universities are better than the average—for full professors at Harvard, the difference amounts to 92.6 cents on the dollar—but everyone knows that at an Ivy League school, an A- is a shameful grade.

In a particularly cruel bit of irony, too, male professors even out-earn female professors at some women’s colleges. In the 2013-2014 academic year at Smith College, male professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and lecturers all made more on average than their female counterparts. At other women’s schools, like Mount Holyoke, for example, the pay gap is not a complete coup for men, affecting only women at the full professor rank.

The rationales? Men have been professors longer, meaning that their average salaries have had more time to increase. And women slow themselves down by having babies and then trying to contort themselves into the Work-Life Balance yoga position. Still, a difference of $28,000 a year raised my eyebrows. And Smith! What’s going on at that bastion of feminism?

Then Slate reports that 1/4 of adjuncts — who, remember, are disproportionately female — have to rely on our fraying social safety net

According to an analysis of census data by the University of California–Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, 25 percent of “part-time college faculty” and their families now receive some sort public assistance, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash welfare, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. For what it’s worth, that’s not quite so bad as the situation faced by fast-food employees and home health care aids, roughly half of whom get government help. But, in case there were any doubt, an awful lot of Ph.D.s and master’s degree holders are basically working poor.

The site’s conclusion is dour:

If we ever want universities to pay part-time educators a decent wage, one of three things needs to happen: Either institutions will have to find savings elsewhere in their budgets, states are going to have to refund their higher education systems, or students are going to have to pay more. The first two seem unlikely, unfortunate as that may be. And the third is a choice nobody really wants to make.

Here’s how far we’ve come as a society in the past century. We’re talking about labor issues and possible solutions to wage disparities, and the highly educated author of a post on the subject doesn’t think to suggest unionization. Because, aside from public shaming and peer/market pressure — which has worked in terms of getting big businesses like Wal*Mart to raise their entry level and minimum wages — getting instructors organized seems like the most direct way to allow them to agitate successfully and en masse for a better deal.

After all, at the K-12 level, teachers’ unions are strong. Though there are any number of downsides to being a teacher, I can’t imagine Randi Weingarten and co. let women get paid less on their watch.

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