The Family Gap: The Penalty of Motherhood on Women's Wages

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Susan E. Long


Motherhood results in a wage penalty to women. I use data from the 1997-2012 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to investigate two primary factors accounting for this so-called family gap. In least squares and fixed-effects regression models I find that part-time work and number of children have significant negative impacts ranging from about 2% to 5% on the wages of mothers, which results primarily through reduced human capital accumulation in labor market experience. Women at higher education levels are responding to the penalty by choosing to delay and even forgo motherhood. A review of similar research literature suggests that maternity leave policies could diminish the gender and family gaps to create more equitable labor market outcomes for mothers.

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