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Great thoughts, Becky.

This is an area of personal interest.

I have just begun reviewing a report that the Government Accounting Office issued in March 2009, which tracked the pay of federal employees from the time period of 1988 to 2008.

On April 28, The Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on the study. The resulting document, "Equal Pay for Equal Work? New Evidence on the Persistence of the Gender Pay Gap," revealed that much of the difference in pay from men to women can be explained by 3 variables: occupation, education, and experience. Still, a haunting 7 cent gap shows up persistently from decade to decade, as an unexplained variance. The variables they did account for included: leave patterns (unpaid leave and breaks in service), occupation, agency, region, education level, bargaining unit status, part-time work status, veteran status, age, race, ethnicity, and disability.

You may notice, as I did, that one of the variables they did account for was leave patterns including unpaid leave and breaks in service. Interestingly, in this study, differences in usage of unpaid leave and breaks in service accounted for less than 1 cent of the total pay gap.

The study did provide a disclaimer that differences in this cohort of participants may be different from another cohort.

As I mentioned, I am just beginning to look at this study and the statistical methodology (which was multivariate regression analysis).

In case anyone else would like to take a look at this study, I have provided the link below. On the site is the PDF report and the hearings of the Joint Economic Committee.



An interesting study - thanks for sharing it with readers here. As a mother myself, I can't deny that parenthood can take a bite out of one's career and earning capacity and it's also true that women continue to bear the lion's share of that responsibility in most (but certainly not all) cases. On the other hand, studies like that done by the AAUW a few years ago show a disparate impact in pay just a year or two out of college, even within the same major discipline. This would lead me to believe that motherhood may be part of the reason, but that other factors remain at play.


Interesting GAO report - thanks for telling us about it and sharing the link here. I'm going to take a look at it, too!


Thxs for the referral to the GAO; I will check it out too. I'll post another blog on this subject with some additional thoughts in the near future.

Vita & Ann,

Both of your comments lead me to ponder the possibilities of so many variables that affect pay disparity including:
- a woman's inherent capabilities coupled with less actual work experience contrasted with a male with a sold work history, yet both perform the same job well (i.e., individual differences)
- what employer, in this day & age could possibly believe that paying women less than men for performing the same job is OK?! (Unless you're located in the back hills of W. Virgina or some other extremely remote place where you're somehow insulated from the outside world).
More to come... thanks for your comments and continuing the discussion!


I must say this is one the best, if not the best discussions I've seen on this topic.

Professionally, as a statistically oriented person, I'm sick of seeing stats like "the average woman makes X% less than the average man" as absolute proof of gender discrimination, without controlling for factors such as education, time in the workforce, career choices, etc.

Great job Becky!

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