Your Most Pressing Questions About Equal Pay Day, Answered

PHOTO: A woman working on a computer in an office on June 23, 2014, in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.PlayThomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images
WATCH Fast Facts About the Gender Pay Gap

Today is Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year that women must work to "catch up" to men's earnings from last year.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's median earnings for men and women in 2014, women earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn. What's more, some research has shown that the pay discrepancy still exists when accounting for factors like profession and hours worked. Equal pay advocates say this "unexplained" difference is due to pay discrimination against women.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the "pay gap," and what research has found:

Are women paid less because they work part time more than men do?

No. The Census Bureau's data looks at full-time earnings for the full year. The median full-time wage for women is $39,621, as compared to $50,383 for men, according to the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

Are women paid less because they have more caregiving responsibilities?

Maybe. Data does show women are more willing to take more time out of the workforce than men are, and that does hurt women's earnings, according to Kevin Miller, senior researcher with the American Association of University Women.

"When women have access to job-protected paid leave, they are more likely to return to the same employer than if they don’t," Miller said. "Continuous work history helps their wages and advancement."

That could potentially affect their earnings, Miller said. There may be a solution, Miller suggests.

"In response, both men and women should have access to paid leave," Miller said. "If men have access, then the answer to the problem is that men should also take leave."

Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs?

No. When comparing the earnings of men and women in the same occupation, there is still a pay discrepancy in which men are paid more, according to a commonly cited study from Stanford.

"What’s suggested is that women’s labor is worth less than men, even when they do the same work," Miller said.

The study, “Occupational Feminization and Pay: Assessing Causal Dynamics Using 1950–2000 U.S. Census Data,” tracked wages between 1950 and 2000 and concluded that when women enter a field or occupation, wages decrease.

"If you compare doctors to doctors and nurses to nurses, men make more, even in more 'stereotypically' female-dominated fields, like education," Miller said.

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