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Women's Pay: Converging Characteristics of Men and Women in the Federal Workforce Help Explain the Narrowing Pay Gap

GAO-09-621T Published: Apr 28, 2009. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 2009.
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Previous research has found that, despite improvements over time, women generally earned less than men in both the general and federal workforces, even after controlling for factors that might explain differences in pay. To determine the extent to which the pay gap exists in the federal workforce, GAO addressed the following question: To what extent has the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce changed over the past 20 years and what factors account for the gap? This testimony is based on a report that GAO is releasing today (GAO-09-279). To answer this question, GAO used data from the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Central Personnel Data File (CPDF)--a database that contains salary and employment data for the majority of employees in the executive branch. GAO used these data to analyze (1) "snapshots" of the workforce as a whole at three points in time (1988, 1998, and 2007) to show changes over a 20-year period, and (2) the group, or cohort, of employees who began their federal careers in 1988 to track their pay over a 20-year period and examine the effects of breaks in service and use of unpaid leave. GAO is not making any recommendations. OPM and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reviewed the report on which this statement is based. They generally agreed with our methods and findings and provided technical comments that we incorporated as appropriate.

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