Increasing Inequality: Trends in the Motherhood Wage Penalty, 1980-2010

Rebecca Glauber, University of New Hampshire

Many studies have shown that women pay a wage penalty for motherhood. Despite this large body of work, we know very little about temporal trends in the motherhood wage penalty. The current study draws on data from the 1980 to 2010 Current Population Surveys and presents results that point to increasing inequality among women. The motherhood wage penalty increased for unmarried mothers and decreased for married mothers. The increases were largest for unmarried mothers with low educational attainment. These women incurred a motherhood wage penalty that was over six times larger in 2010 than it was in 1980. In contrast, married mothers with high educational attainment began to earn a wage premium by the late 1990s. These women tend to work in jobs where they can reduce their work hours without compromising their annual earnings. Explanations of the motherhood wage penalty need to reflect for these new trends.

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Presented in Session 114: The Demography of Inequality: Income, Consumption and Wealth