Despite a half century of attempts to close the gender-based pay chasm, women continue to earn substantially less than men. And it will likely be the mid-21st century before the gap is eliminated.

That's the conclusion of the latest pay gap review by the U.S. Department of Labor. The department took a look at the gap on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act – the anniversary was Monday – and reported that in some comparisons, women had actually fallen further behind in the past year. Overall, the optimism expressed by the Kennedy administration on the signing of the act hasn't been supported by action in the last decade, it said.

While the DOL crunches the numbers in an array of ways, overall, women make about 80 percent of what men make in apples-to-apples comparisons. Women's earnings as a percent of men's climbed about 5 percent from the late 1990s through 2003. But since then, gains have been miniscule — perhaps a percentage point or two since 2003.

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