The Department of Education released a trove of data a few days ago showing earnings for students who attended U.S. colleges and universities and received federal grants or loans.
I decided to sort the data by which schools have the widest earnings gap between male and female graduates, and one school stood far out beyond the rest: The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Ten years after enrollment, men who graduate from there earn $110,400 more per year, on average, than women who do.
In a response to me, the Center said that this data reflects earnings differences over six different schools, including nursing, dentistry and public health, where there are wide disparities in expected earnings.
The 10 schools with the widest earnings gap were all medical-related institutions, as the chart above shows.
Trying to figure out what could possibly account for these yawning gaps, I called Dr. Anthony T. Lo Sasso, a professor of Health Policy & Administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago who co-authored a paper about the topic in 2011 which said that the cause of the gap is largely unexplained.
Lo Sasso speculates it’s likely related to the specializations that male and female students choose, although why these specializations shake out in this manner is a much more complex question, he said. There is almost certainly a gender bias in the medical profession, where women are subtly discouraged from pursuing specialties that result in bigger paychecks.
It may also have to do with lingering traditions about family roles. Women tend to choose specialties with more predictable hours because of the pull of their own responsibilities as parents, Lo Sasso said. Indeed, Harvard's Claudia Goldin has highlighted this as a major roadblock toward closing the gender income gap.
"Perhaps the medical industry and the labor market for physicians has evolved in such a way that women may be more likely to ask for different types of accommodations, like fewer overnights and more predictable hours," Lo Sasso said.
In Texas more broadly, the male-female earnings gap is at the national average. It's worth noting that the two schools where women graduates earned the most over their male counterparts were the Dallas and Arlington, Texas, locations of for-profit Kaplan College, with a $10,600 annual earnings advantage for women.
This post has been updated with The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston's response.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.