Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Postgraduate Wage Premiums and the Gender Wage Gap in Canada

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Postgraduate Wage Premiums and the Gender Wage Gap in Canada

Article excerpt

Introduction

Postgraduate education is an important human resource because it helps fuel innovation and development, both of which are essential in Canada's knowledge-driven economy. Over the last few decades, federal and provincial governments have recognized the value of postgraduate training and have made significant investments to encourage enrolment (AUCC, 2011; Hall & Arnold, 2013). Between 1992/1993 and 2008/2009, full-time enrolment in master's programs increased by almost 80% and doctoral enrolment increased by more than 90% (PSIS, 2016b).1 The number of postgraduate degrees granted increased in a similar fashion (PSIS, 2016a). Women have played a significant role in this growth (PSIS, 2016a, 2016b). However, not everyone sees these gains as positive. In recent years, questions have been raised regarding the employment opportunities and earnings for those who complete postgraduate degrees (Cyranoski, Gilbert, Ledford, Nayar, & Yahira, 2011; Economist, 2010; Edge & Munroe, 2015; Fullick, 2015)-specifically, whether or not postgraduate training provides any labour market advantages over a bachelor's degree. The present study contributes to this debate and also explores whether women's progress into postgraduate education has helped ameliorate their wage disadvantage relative to men.

To date, relatively few studies have explored the returns to postgraduate education. Much of the literature has relied on survey data from recent graduates, such as the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) or the National Graduate Survey (NGS) (e.g., Desjardins & King, 2011; Ferguson & Wang, 2014; King, Eisl-Culkin, & Desjardins, 2008). For all the value of this literature, these studies do not provide a complete portrait of the returns to postgraduate education because they do not include information about older individuals with more work experience. At the same time, there is a dearth of literature exploring whether the gender wage gap attenuates as women progress beyond the bachelor's level. There has also been little research on the roles that field of study, occupation, and industry of employment play in terms of gender wage gaps at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Research on the gender wage gap for those with doctoral degrees has focused almost exclusively on university professors (Brown, Prentice, & Troutt, 2007; Doucet, Durand, & Smith, 2008; Doucet, Smith, & Durand 2012; Guppy, 1989; Ornstein & Stewart, 1996; Ornstein, Steward, & Drakich, 1998, 2007; Sussman & Yssaad, 2005; Warman, Woolley, & Worswick, 2010); however, with fewer than 20% of doctoral graduates finding work as full-time professors (Edge & Munro, 2015), more research is needed on the earnings and gender wage gap for all those with postgraduate credentials.

This study bridges two important bodies of literature: the human capital literature on the economic returns to postsecondary education and the gender wage gap literature. First, I explore whether or not there is a postgraduate wage advantage above a bachelor's degree and how it varies by age, sex, and field of study. This contributes to classic economic literature, which suggests that investments in education will increase earnings (Becker, 1964). Much of the existing literature has relied on data collected on recent graduates. The absence of information on older respondents with more work experience is a problem if returns to education vary with duration in the labour market. To overcome this limitation, I use a large population-based survey that includes workers of all ages. The inclusion of both younger and older individuals will give a more complete portrait of returns to postgraduate education. I also look at how postgraduate wage premiums vary by age, sex, and field of study.

Next, I ask whether or not women who invest in postgraduate education are able to narrow the gender wage gap relative to women with bachelor's degrees. …

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