Here’s Who Would Win March Madness Based on Schools’ Gender Pay Gaps

March 14, 2017
Two basketball players fight for the ball under the net.

Image via Big West Conference, Flickr Creative Commons

March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, kicks off this week. But to us, the real madness is that women and people of color still don’t have equal pay in 2017!

If you’ve followed March Madness with AAUW for the past few years, you’ve seen our brackets that display the gender pay gap between schools’ male and female coaches and between their male and female graduates.

It’s no secret that the gender pay gap exists immediately after women and men graduate from college. The unfortunate reality is that this pay gap grows even larger as they continue in their careers. This year, AAUW’s pay gap playoff brackets will take a deeper dive into how much the gender pay gap grows or shrinks over time.

We’re rooting for the teams whose graduates see a narrower gender pay gap over time—and we hope you’ll join us! We calculated the pay gap for each competing school’s female and male students six years and ten years after entering college. In each matchup, the school whose gender pay gap grows more during those four years is knocked out of the tournament! For example, if School A’s pay gap grows by eight percentage points, while School B’s pay gap grows by just two percentage points, School B would advance to the next round. Root for the teams with the smaller percentages!

Check out our brackets below to see which schools’ gender pay gaps grow over the years. Your alma mater might be our pay gap playoffs champion!


Men’s Tournament Bracket Winner:
Princeton University

The Princeton Tigers take home the trophy because their graduates actually see their gender pay gap shrink over time. Six years after entry to Princeton, women graduates are paid just 56 percent of what their male counterparts are paid. Ten years after entry, however, women with Princeton degrees are paid 81 percent of what men with Princeton degrees are paid — a narrowing of the pay gap by 25 percentage points. We applaud this unusual example of the gender pay gap narrowing for a group of graduates!


Women’s Tournament Bracket Winner:
University of California

The Cal Bears are the winners of our women’s bracket with a gender pay gap that shrinks by 6.8 percentage points over time. This victory in particular caught our eye because the University of California hosts AAUW salary negotiation workshops on campus. Good salary negotiation knowledge can play a key role in closing the gender pay gap, a trend demonstrated by the university.


Another noteworthy finding is that several of the schools with lower pay gap growth are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), such as Hampton University and North Carolina Central University. Research shows that the pay gap is worse for women of color, but African American men also face a racial pay gap when compared with the earnings of white men. This racial pay gap is one reason the earnings ratios between men and women of color are generally narrower, and it may explain one reason why several HBCUs see lower growth in the gender pay gap.

While the instances of California and Princeton are bright spots in this analysis of the gender pay gap, they don’t tell the full story of the pay gap for graduates nationwide. As AAUW’s research shows, the pay gap “grows with age, and differences among older workers are considerably larger than gaps among younger workers. 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.”

The bottom line: The gender pay gap exists immediately after graduating college and continues to grow wider over time in most cases. Of the schools in our women’s bracket 56 out of the 64 teams see their gender pay gaps grow larger over time, which is consistent with the findings in AAUW’s research. Our brackets serve as a fun way to cheer for equal pay as March Madness begins, but they’re also a good reminder that we still have more work to do to close the gender pay gap.

More about Our Method

All earnings data for colleges and universities used are available through the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. The Department of Education collects this earnings data from the IRS. Because this information is available only for Title IV recipients or students who received federal grants and loans, our analysis uses the post-college mean earnings data of women and men who received federal aid. Per the Department of Education, “Earnings are defined as the sum of wages and deferred compensation from all W-2 forms received for each individual, plus self-employment earnings.” We divided the mean earnings of female graduates by the mean earnings of male graduates at the same school to determine earnings ratios. Then, we measured the difference between the six-year ratio and ten-year ratio to determine the percentages you see on the brackets.

AAUW Research Assistant Raina Nelson contributed to this analysis.



Equal pay action idea #2: organize an issue forum, town hall, panel discussion, or virtual event to share educational information and inspire action in your community.

Take Action for
Equal Pay Day

Each week we’re sharing actions for observing Equal Pay Day and providing tips for how you can help ensure that women are paid fairly.

at this rate your great, great, great granddaughters might have fair pay

Take Action:
Fight for Fair Pay

Women working full time in the U.S. are typically paid just 80 percent of what men are paid. Tell Congress to support pay equity legislation.

Gender pay gap by state. Women's median annual earnings compared with men's median annual earnings for full-time workers in 2015.

Quick Facts on the Gender Pay Gap

The pay gap persists across all racial and ethnic groups, and it is found in every state.

By:   |   March 14, 2017


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