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46% of American men think the gender pay gap is ‘made up to serve a political purpose’

Part of this disbelief in the pay gap, and in media reports of it, may stem from confusion over how the gender wage gap is presented and discussed.

“I think some people get it wrong that [the pay gap] is all about discrimination against women, and another group of people get it wrong, that it has nothing to do with discrimination,” Gary Burtless, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, told CNBC Make It as part of our look into what economists believe people don’t understand about the gender wage gap.

Depending on how economists or analysts control for factors like job title, location, industry, educational attainment, company-size, work experience, and age, different size wage gaps emerge.

An example of this can be seen in a new report from jobs site Glassdoor. When the company looked at more than 425,000 salaries shared by full-time U.S. employees on its site, it found that women earn 21.4 percent less than men, on average.

But when Glassdoor compared workers of similar age, education and experience, the adjusted gap shrank slightly, to 19.1 percent. And when it refined that comparison further to include only workers who also had the same job title and similar employers and locations, the gap fell to 4.9 percent.

This indicates that men and women‘s industry segregation, or tendency to pursue or be accepted into occupations that pay differently, is the largest driver of the gender pay gap, accounting for about 56.5 percent of the overall unadjusted pay gap.

But it also means not all of the 21.4 percent unadjusted wage gap Glassdoor found can be explained by reasons like job type, industry, education or other factors. In fact, only 13.8 percent of the gap can be explained by differences between male and female workers, the remaining 7.6 percent is likely due to “gender bias,” Glassdoor concludes.