Cheer for Equal Pay with Your NCAA Brackets

Two basketball players fight for the ball under the net.

Image via Big West Conference, Flickr Creative Commons

March 15, 2016

It’s time once again for us to watch with bated breath as more than 100 college and university women’s and men’s basketball teams compete in March Madness. For the last two years, AAUW has encouraged you to choose your bracket selections based on the pay gaps between the coaches of women’s and men’s teams. This year, however, we’re switching things up and inviting you to make your bracket picks based on the size of gender pay gaps between female and male graduates of the competing schools.

Nationally, women working full time in the United States typically are paid just 79 percent of what men are paid, a gap of 21 percent. With that in mind, we’ll be betting on the schools with the smallest gender pay gaps.

An estimated 40 million people filled out more than 70 million brackets in 2015 in hopes of predicting the annual tournament’s outcome, according to the American Gaming Association. That’s about as many brackets filled out as there are women in the U.S. labor force (72 million)! If each bracket submitted this year followed our model, there would be one bracket for nearly every woman in the labor force; enough for every U.S. woman’s voice to symbolically call for equal pay. When you take a stand with AAUW by supporting schools that have the best earnings ratios between female and male graduates, you can’t lose.

AAUW’s pay gap playoff brackets predict the victors of the women’s and men’s championships by calculating the gap between the mean earnings of female and male graduates 10 years after entry to college. The school whose graduates have a smaller gender pay gap advance to the next round.

Who wins?

Women’s bracket: Alabama State

Alabama State takes home the trophy with a 99 percent earnings ratio, meaning the school’s women graduates are paid 99 cents for every dollar a man is paid. The victory by the Alabama State Lady Hornets, also an HBCU, once again reinforces The Simple Truth’s finding that we generally see smaller pay gaps between women and men of color.

The Final Four in our women’s bracket is made up of Albany, Alabama State, North Carolina A&T, and St. John’s, with the lowest earnings ratio of the four schools at 85 percent. But we celebrate the schools in the Final Four from both the women’s and men’s tournaments, as they all have gender pay gaps that are narrower than the national average of 79 percent.

Read more AAUW analysis of the pay gap by race and gender

Men’s bracket: Hampton University

Hampton University would win the tournament based on its smaller gender pay gap. It is the only school with an earnings ratio in which female graduates are paid more on average than male graduates do — 109 cents for every dollar male graduates are paid. This finding, combined with the fact that Hampton is only one of two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the men’s tournament pool, raises an important issue. It’s no secret that the pay gap is worse for women of color: African American women, for example, are paid on average just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men, and Hispanic women and Latinas just 54 cents. That’s why AAUW not only recognizes Equal Pay Day in April, but also Equal Pay Days for Hispanic, African American, Native American, and Asian women throughout the year. But African American men also face a racial wage gap when compared with white men, which is one reason why pay gaps between men and women of the same race/ethnicity are generally narrower.

If our men’s brackets play out, the Final Four would be comprised of Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast University, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth University. The lowest earnings ratio among these four teams is 87 percent, which is eight percentage points narrower than the national gender pay gap. Hampton was also featured in our Final Four and championship rounds last year, where we measured the pay gaps between coaches of women’s and men’s teams. Pay equity is undoubtedly in the playbook at Hampton.

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 10 years after their entry to the college or university. 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 the ratio you see on the brackets.


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