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Women's Earnings: Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men's and Women's Earnings

GAO-04-35 Published: Oct 31, 2003. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 2003.
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Despite extensive research on the progress that women have made toward equal pay and career advancement opportunities over the past several decades, there is no consensus about the magnitude of earnings differences between men and women and why differences may exist. According to data from the Department of Labor's Current Population Survey (CPS), women have typically earned less than men. Specifically, in 2001, the published CPS data showed that for full-time wage and salary workers, women's weekly earnings were about three-fourths of men's. However, this difference does not reflect key factors, such as work experience and education, that may affect the level of earnings individuals receive. Studies that attempt to account for key factors have provided a more comprehensive estimate of the earnings difference. However, recent information is lacking because many studies on earnings differences relied on data that predated the mid-1990s. But, even when accounting for these factors, questions remain about the size of and reasons for any earnings difference. To provide insight into these issues, Congress asked that we examine the factors that contribute to differences in men's and women's earnings.

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