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Gender Pay Gap Begins As Soon As Women Graduate

Hooray for women. We've made impressive strides in education and work over the last half-century. Yet we're still earning less than men in most occupations.

Working women earned on average 82 percent of what men earned, or $35,296 compared with $42,918, according to a new report that examined the pay gap one year after college students graduated.

That was a slight improvement over the pay gap in 2001, when women earned 80 percent of what their male peers made.

The lopsided pay differed among occupations. In the field of computer and information sciences, women earned just 77 percent of their male counterparts, the study found. In engineering, salaries were more comparable as women earned 88 percent of what men did. In business and the social sciences, the figures were 84 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

The two fields with the largest pay gaps were sales occupations, in which women earned just 77 percent of men, and  "other occupations," a category that includes mainly blue-collar jobs, such as in food service and construction. In the latter category, women earned just 68 percent of what men did.

To delve deeper into the reasons for the pay gap, the researchers studied men and women at a time in their lives before most had children, since caregiving tends to negatively affect women's wages as they go in and out of the workforce more than men.

In general, the study said, women earn less than men because they often work in lower-paid fields such as education instead of engineering, which is dominated by men. But when researchers looked at men and women in the same field, they found that women still earned about 7 percent less than their male counterparts.

And researchers say they can't explain why.

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