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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-62078OAI: diva2:439732
Available from: 2011-09-08 Created: 2011-09-08

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

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