The Gender Pay Gap is among America’s most hotly disputed issues. And recent reports from sources as diverse as the New York Times and Harvard have only intensified the debate. Research studies, one due to be published this month and recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicate that gender inequality and a pay gap exist in the U.S. and this is indisputable.

Even iconic organizations such as Google and the "Star Wars" franchise have fallen under recent scrutiny for their alleged gender inequality practices. And while the figures differ, economists generally agree that American women make about 80 cents for every dollar men earn.

The pay gap: the causes

The real debate surrounding the gender pay gap centers on its causes. Prominent figures such as former President Barack Obama and seemingly countless celebrities have pointed to discrimination as the root cause of the gender pay gap.

But an increasing number of journalists and academics argue the causes are more complex. While discrimination remains a factor, they maintain, it would be naive to fault gender bias alone.

The 80-cent statistic is largely to blame. While accurate on a basic level, it doesn’t take into account factors such as years in a career field, college major preferences (and their earning potential), and, most significantly, the impact of motherhood.

In fact, unmarried women without children tend to earn similar wages to their male counterparts (about 95 percent, according to Princeton political scientist Anne-Marie Slaughter).

“When men and women finish school and start working, they’re paid pretty much equally,” wrote Clair Cain Miller in the New York Times this month.

“So what changes? The answer can be found by looking at when the pay gap widens most sharply. It’s the late 20's to mid-30's, according to two new studies — in other words, when many women have children.”

Another key factor is the lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and other career fields that tend to pay well.

Men dominate such jobs. But even women who do pursue STEM careers can face discrimination. According to an American Association of University Women study in 2013, Women In Stem careers earn between 82 and 87 percent compared to their male colleagues.

The pay gap: the cures

Opinions on how to address the gender pay gap are as diverse as views on its causes. Those who focus on discrimination as the root cause often call for government intervention. Those who think the causes are more complex, however, offer other ideas.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, for example, notes that mothers and other female caregivers are drawn to work that offers flexibility.

But she believes the American workplace is structured to punish those who value work flexibility. The issue, she maintains, is bigger than education, experience or even discrimination.

“What is needed are changes in how jobs are structured and remunerated, enhancing the flexibility of work schedules,” Goldin wrote in a 2015 Harvard study. “The gender gap in hourly compensation would vanish if long, inflexible work days and weeks weren’t profitable to employers.”

The gender pay gap, then, is hardly a myth, but it’s about more than discrimination. It’s just not that simple. And neither are the solutions.