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Latin American women: better educated, but still underpaid

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Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters

(Read caption) Nurse Brenin Lopez uses her finger to simulate the mouth of Adriana del Rosario, during the "Kangaroo Mothers" program in the maternity ward of the Roosevelt hospital in Guatemala City October 29. Though Latin American women are better educated than ever before, they continue to earn far less than their male counterparts.

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Latin American women are better educated than ever before. So why do they continue to earn far less than their male counterparts?

A new study from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) highlights the apparent paradox and tries to explain the reasons behind it.

Challenging the notion that parents tend to favor investing in boys’ education, the study found that Latin America has achieved gender parity – and in much of the region, the balance tips in favor of girls – in terms of schooling.

However, even with an educational advantage, women are still mostly employed in lower-paid occupations in Latin America such as teaching, healthcare, or the service sector, like restaurants. Comparing men and women of the same age and educational level, the study found that men earn 17 percent more than women do in Latin America. That number is actually down from 25 percent in 1992, but the pace at which the gap is narrowing remains slow.

Part of the problem is that the majority of the better-paying jobs available for high-school graduates in the region are culturally associated with men, says Isabel Londoño, an education and gender issues specialist in Bogota, Colombia. These include positions such as bus and truck drivers, security personnel, military service, miners, and oil workers, Ms. Londoño says.

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