The gender pay gap may be worse than you thought

It’s commonly cited that women earn about 80 cents to every dollar a man makes, but according to a new study, the gender pay gap may be even wider than once believed.

The report, published on Wednesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, found that women actually earn less than half -- about 49 cents -- to every dollar a man does. According to the study, the 80 cents figure (which is significantly lower for women of color, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) understates the pay inequality problem by leaving many women workers out of the picture.

Measures of pay differences generally take place over the course of one year, but the authors of this study analyzed women’s earnings across a 15-year period, and compared those with men’s.

One of the biggest dangers to higher earnings is extended time off from the workforce. The study, titled “Still a Man’s Labor Market,” found that women’s earning potential suffered if they took just one year off from work. In fact, their earnings were 39 percent lower than women who worked all 15 years between 2001 and 2015.

“While men are also penalized for time out of the workforce, women’s earnings losses for timeout are almost always greater than men’s,” the study argued.

The issue is that women are far more likely to take a break from work: Roughly 28 percent of women worked full-time over the 15 years the researchers examined, while 59 percent of their male counterparts did.

Although the study found that women had made progress in their earning potential -- women made 19 cents on the average to the man’s dollar in 1982 – there’s still more companies can do to increase women’s participation in the labor force and help narrow the pay gap, like adopting policies like paid family and medical leave, as well as affordable child care, the study found.

“Despite considerable progress over the last 50 years, 43 percent of today’s women workers had at least one year with no earnings, nearly twice the rate of men,” the authors wrote. “With high penalties for weak labor force attachment, achieving higher lifetime earnings for women will require strengthening women’s attachment to the labor force.”