An emphasis on vocational training over college-prep classes in low-income schools may penalize women, a new study suggests.
A group of researchers wanted to find out if high-school students in blue-collar neighborhoods would benefit from an emphasis on vocational training, rather than college preparation. Their study found that such training did lead to opportunities — for men.
After graduation, the women were less likely to be employed, and those who did find jobs earned less than their male counterparts. They also earned less than women from non-blue-collar communities.
While gender wage gaps exist in all kinds of jobs, they’re widest among young men and women who attended blue-collar high schools, according to the study, which analyzed data from about 60,000 students who were tracked from sophomore year to early adulthood. The study will be published next month in the American Sociological Review.
The study was motivated by the recent push to bring more vocational training to high schools. While advocates have talked about the need to fill blue-collar jobs, there isn’t much discussion about the fact that many industries are traditionally male-dominated, said Amanda Bosky, a researcher from the University of Texas at Austin.
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“Gender was very absent from the public discourse,” she said.
In the communities studied, many schools opted to add more vocational-training classes. At those schools, the researchers found that students were less likely to go to college, but the males later found jobs. The women often didn’t.
The study doesn’t call for less vocational training but suggests that schools shouldn’t sacrifice higher-level academic courses for vocational classes.
“That is really our main point, to keep in mind that women suffer if you relax the academic offerings in response to bringing in vocational training,” Bosky said.
The researchers from Cornell University and UT-Austin looked at data in communities with the largest proportion of blue-collar jobs, which the U.S. Census defines as jobs in construction, extraction (such as drilling or excavation) and maintenance.