Education at a Glance 2016, Developed with Key Support from AIR, Puts a Spotlight on Global Gender Imbalances in Education

Washington, D.C. — The American Institutes for Research (AIR) was instrumental in developing key U.S. data for Education at a Glance 2016, a report released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The report analyzes the educational systems of 35 OECD and 11 partner countries on educational measures ranging from enrollment and graduation to employment and earnings.

This year’s report, more than 500 pages long, highlights gender imbalances related to earnings, employment rates, educational attainment and fields of study.

The report found that women in the United States ages 25 to 64 who had attained some higher education earned 68 percent of what men earn — a gender gap larger than in all OECD countries save for Brazil, Chile, Israel, Mexico and the Slovak Republic. The same gender gap (32 percent) is found in the United States for 35- to 44-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds, a sign that the earnings differential between men and women is not decreasing among younger people.

Even though in 2015 a higher percentage of U.S. women than men (47 percent vs. 42 percent) had attained higher education, women with college degrees still earned less, regardless of their field.

The report found that, even for those in the same fields of study, women in the United States earned less than men. For example, in the social sciences, business and law — fields with higher-than-average pay — mean monthly earnings were $6,000 for women and $7,800 for men. A similar pay gap between women and men was identified in the fields of science, mathematics and computing, where mean monthly earnings were $5,400 for women and $7,200 for men. The gender pay gap was smaller in fields with a higher percentage of women, such as teacher training, but even there, men still had higher monthly earnings.

“When women earn less than men, it affects the economy in many ways,” said Rachel Dinkes, a senior researcher at AIR who worked on the report. “For example, the strain of paying back student loans is less for male graduates because they earn more once they leave college. By some estimates, closing the pay gap between women and men would grow the economy by upwards of 3 percentage points.”

Education at a Glance 2016 is accompanied by select subnational data, completed with the support of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and AIR. Using these data, researchers and policymakers can determine how U.S. states stack up on a host of educational benchmarks, against one another and selected OECD countries.

For example, the United States ranks 12th among the 44 OECD and partner countries in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have completed a college degree (47 percent), some distance from President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. However, the state-by-state breakdown shows that if it were a country, Massachusetts would rank fifth — after Korea, Japan, Canada and Russia — with 56 percent.

AIR researchers contributed to the collection, submission and presentation of U.S. data for the annual report. Among many findings, the data show:

  • With 42 percent of 3-year-olds and 68 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in early childhood or primary education in 2014, the United States has one of the lowest national enrollment rates — far below the OECD average of 71 percent of 3-year-olds and 86 percent of 4-year-olds. Only Switzerland, Costa Rica and Turkey had a lower percentage of 3-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education. The U.S. situation has changed little since 2005, when the enrollment rate was 39 percent for 3-year-olds and 68 percent for 4-year-olds.
  • Salaries of teachers in the United States with typical qualifications are higher on average than across reporting OECD countries. The average starting salary of a U.S. elementary school teacher is $42,256, compared to $31,028 across OECD countries. Depending on the level taught, salaries of teachers range from 57 percent to 61 percent of the average salaries of similarly educated workers in the United States.
  • The share of 25- to 64-year-olds in the United States with some form of higher education remains higher than the OECD average. But the relative advantage is shrinking among 25- to 34-year-olds because the college-attainment rate is increasing much faster in many other countries.

Education at a Glance 2016 can be found on OECD’s website. The subnational data may be found on NCES’ website.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit