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Where Do Working Mothers Fare the Worst: A Comparative Study on Wage Penalties for Motherhood by Skill
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI).
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa.
Department of Sociology, Stanford University.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In light of the discussion on the difficulties experienced by parents who combine work and family demands, many scholars have examined the wage penalties associated with parenthood for women. Previous research shows that considerable variation exists regarding the strength of the motherhood wage penalty across countries. Scholars have partially attributed these disparities to the differences in the national policies supporting maternal employment. Although such policies are usually understood to be complementary, their effects on employees, especially on those in jobs with diverse skill levels, may differ. Using longitudinal data from the 1994–2001 European Community Household Panel (ECHP), we describe the associations between different maternal employment policies and the wage penalties for mothers by skill. With the important caveat that we only have information for 10 countries, findings from fixed-effect models indicate that, after adjusting for female participation in the labor force, a high proportion of small children in publicly funded childcare facilities is associated with a modest decrease in the motherhood wage penalty, regardless of skill level. By contrast, paid maternity leave is weakly associated with an increase in the motherhood wage gap only for women in less skilled jobs. Our findings highlight the importance of accounting for skill as well as the significance of separating maternity leave and the provision of public childcare when studying cross-country variations in women’ labor market outcomes. 


Keyword [en]
motherhood wage penalty, maternity leave, childcare, family policy, maternal employment
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-62072OAI: diva2:439717
Available from: 2011-09-08 Created: 2011-09-08 Last updated: 2011-09-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. What's Sex Got to Do with It? Women and Men in European Labour Markets
Open this publication in new window or tab >>What's Sex Got to Do with It? Women and Men in European Labour Markets
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis consists of four empirical studies on women and men in European labour markets.

Study I examines effects of the sex of the immediate supervisor on the time men and women spend in initial on-the-job training (OJT) in Sweden. The results show that men receive longer initial OJT than women do, but men’s time in training is independent of the supervisor’s sex. For women in the private sector, the chances of receiving long initial OJT are higher if the immediate supervisor is a man.

Study II analyses effects of labour market institutions on the quality of part-time work by comparing the skills and autonomy of female part-time jobs in Britain and Sweden. The results show that female part-time employees in Sweden hold positions of higher skill and have more autonomy compared to their equivalents in Britain. Both British and Swedish part-time employees face relative disadvantages when compared to female full-time workers.

Study III examines associations between maternal employment policies and wage penalties for mothers by skill in 10 European countries. The results indicate that, net of variation in female labour force participation, extensive publicly funded childcare is associated with a modest decrease in the motherhood wage penalty, regardless of skill. By contrast, paid maternity leave is weakly associated with a larger motherhood wage gap in less skilled jobs only.

Study IV examines the extent to which women’s opportunities to attain positions of high workplace authority are related to maternal employment policies, such as paid parental leave and part-time work. Based on data from 25 European countries, the results show that a high proportion of women working long part-time hours is associated with a wider gender gap in the attainment of high authority positions, to the disadvantage of women. However, paid parental leave appears to be unrelated to the gender authority gap.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2011. 36 p.
Swedish Institute for Social Research, ISSN 0283-8222 ; 85
gender inequality, labour market, country comparisons, skills, work-family balance, part-time, maternity/parental leave, childcare, family policy, Sweden, Europe
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-61877 (URN)978-91-7447-329-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-09-30, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: In press. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.Available from: 2011-09-08 Created: 2011-09-01 Last updated: 2012-02-17Bibliographically approved

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Halldén, Karin
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The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)

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