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Gender Pay Differences: Progress Made, but Women Remain Overrepresented among Low-Wage Workers

GAO-12-10 Published: Oct 12, 2011. Publicly Released: Nov 03, 2011.
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Women represent an increasingly larger share of the total workforce in the United States--constituting nearly half of the total workforce. In addition, an increasing proportion of women in the workforce are more educated. However, research by GAO and others has shown that women's average pay has been and remains lower than that of men. Questions have been raised about the extent to which less-advantaged women--that is, those who are low wage or less educated--experience lower wages than less-advantaged men. GAO was asked to examine the differences in representation, key characteristics, and pay among women and men (1) with less education and (2) with low wages. GAO defined less-educated workers as those having a high school degree or less and low-wage workers as those earning an hourly wage rate in the bottom quintile--or 20 percent--of wages across the workforce. GAO analyzed data from the Department of Labor's Current Population Survey (CPS); reviewed other work on similar topics; and interviewed agency officials, representatives of women's groups, and other researchers.

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