Do mothers “pay” for having children |

Do mothers "pay" for having children


Previous research finds a sizable, unexplained difference in earnings between mothers and non-mothers in the United States, often referred to as the motherhood wage penalty. However, few studies agree on which mothers bear the disproportionate burden of the penalty. Past work also assumes that the penalty is the same at every point during a mother’s life course, but this approach may underestimate the dynamic and cumulative nature of the penalty. Instead, I argue that the penalty may change over time in different ways for different groups of women.
I use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) from 1981 to 2001 to identify which mothers disproportionately bear the greater burden over their childrearing years. I find that higher educated women are penalized the most – and it accumulates slightly over a mother’s life course. Lower educated mothers are not penalized at all, in contrast. These results suggest some support for the job demands hypothesis: mothers in more demanding jobs experience a greater penalty than non-mothers because of either real or perceived differences in productivity. Depending on the nature of the job, this penalty may accumulate over time as work responsibilities and expectations increase. On the other hand, lower educated mothers may not be penalized because they typically work in the low-wage segment of the labor market, which provides fewer opportunities for wage growth.

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Therese Leung, Labor Policy Advisor, Committee on Education and Labor, United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC

Friday, 02 July 2010
12.30 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 3-5
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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