Women with degrees gain less financially from going to university than their male counterparts, a study commissioned by the Department of Education has found.
The study conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies found that men with degrees can expect to earn £130,000 more over the course of their careers, while women with degrees can only expect to earn £100,000 more.
According to recent figures, the majority of undergraduates in the UK – around 57% – are female. The study found that more female graduates than male benefit financially from having a degree.
While 85% of women who complete higher education will see a positive financial return – namely, a significant enough earnings boost to pay for their student debt and then some – only 75% of men will reap the same benefit.
The average graduate now leaves university with around £50,000 of student debt.
However, the study found that the gender pay gap for graduates begins to widen significantly when men and women reach their thirties. Whereas male graduates tend to enjoy a "strong" growth in earnings throughout this decade of their lives, female graduates can only expect to enjoy "moderate" growth in the same period.
In fact, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts that the average male graduate will enjoy an average earnings increase of £15,000 between the ages of 30 and 40, but pegs this figure at just £5,000 for female graduates.
The study notes that "many" women are "taking time out to care for children" during this stage of their lives, which could partly account for the relatively slow growth in their earnings.
The study's findings echo similar research from the US which suggests that millennial mothers are really bearing the brunt of the gender pay gap. The US study found that women who have their first child between the age 25 and 35 are unlikely ever to see their pay "recover" next to men's after taking time out to care for children.