Having children increases men’s salaries by more than 6% and decreases women’s earnings by more than 4%, according to University of Massachusetts’ Michelle Budig.
Low-income women were most affected by the “motherhood pay penalty,” whereas low-income men were least affected.
In the U.S., this trend has massive impact because more than 70% of mothers are employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more than 40% of these mothers are the primary wage earner, reported the Pew Research Center.
Marital status and parenting situation significantly affect average salaries: Married mothers in the U.S. earn 76 cents – 82 cents for every $1.00 earned by men.
In contrast, unmarried women with no children earn salaries more similar to men: 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 1979 – 2006 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth.
Low-income women fared worse: They lost 6 percent in wages per child, significantly higher penalty than average-income women experience.
Highly educated white and Latino men in professional jobs benefitted most from having children whereas less educated, unmarried African-American men working in manual labor jobs received less salary advantage, noted Boston University’s Melissa Hodges and Budig of UMASS.
In the U.S., the average gender pay gap has been decreasing, but the parenthood pay gap is increasing, reported University of Connecticut’s Sara Harkness and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University.
Their findings confirmed the impact of marital status on parents’ salaries: Single mothers earned just over 83 cents compared to a single father’s US salary dollar.
Married mothers with at least one child under age 18 fared worse: They earned 76 cents for each dollar earned by a married father.
One source of this wage difference may be hiring discrimination against mothers, argued Stanford’s Shelley J. Correll and Stephen Benard of Indiana University, when they sent identical fictitious résumés to hundreds of employers.
Half the male and female “candidates” indicated membership in a parent-teacher association, whereas the remaining male and female credentials indicated no community involvement with a school.
Female résumés that included PTA membership were half as likely to be contacted for an interview, compared with female qualifications without this involvement.
In contrast, male résumés with this volunteer activity were contacted for interviews slightly more frequently than those that did not.
Correll and Benard also asked volunteers to act as “employers” and determine the salary for “job applicants.”
On average, participants offered mothers an average of $11,000 less than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers.
However, socioeconomic strata can buffer the motherhood penalty: Women in the top 10 percent of earners lost no income when they had children, and those in the top 5 percent received bonuses, similar to men.
Women least able to afford salary decreases experience the largest pay penalty for motherhood.
This inequity can be minimized with measures suggested Deborah J. Anderson, then of University of Arizona with Melissa Binder and Kate Krause of University of New Mexico:
-Flexible work arrangements (ROWE), although some research indicates that this type of flexibility can result in lower salaries,
-Widely-available, affordable, high-quality childcare.
These recommendations remain aspirational goals in many organizations, and until these structures are available to most employees, this pay differential may persist.
- To what extent have you seen men’s careers benefit from becoming a parent?
- “The Motherhood Penalty” in the Workplace
- Equal Pay Act’s Fiftieth Anniversary: Progress but no Parity
- Will the ROWE Revolution Reach Yahoo? Results-Only Work Environments, Productivity, and Employee Engagement
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