Motherhood Is To Blame For Gender Pay Gap, So Happy Mother's Day

by Mike Julianelle
Image via Shutterstock

The pay gap widens once women have kids, according to new research

Turns out the pay gap that women experience isn’t solely about gender. According to new research, it’s actually about parenting.

Also, it’s so ingrained into workplace economies that it effects women who don’t even have kids. That seems fair, he said sarcastically.

A piece in the New York Times explores the findings in two new research papers by a team of researchers, including Sari Kerr, an economist at Wellesley college, Claudia Goldin of Harvard, Claudia Olivetti of Boston College, and Erling Barth from the Institute of Social Research in Oslo.

The papers, one of which will be published in the American Economic Review this month, the other which is already online at the National Bureau of Economic Research, assert that the pay gap between genders doesn’t really manifest until the late 20s and early 30s, after they’ve already been working a while. And the main differentiator?


According to the research, women make about 90 percent as much as men when they’re 25 years old, but then only 55 percent as much at age 45.

Women still do the lion’s share of parenting, and it makes sense that when a couple decides to have kids, one takes a step back, except, the papers state, that assumption is what helps the pay gap manifest in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle.

Not every woman works less after having kids, but they are still paid as if they do, because assumptions. And we all know what assuming does…

The papers go on to assert that the only way this changes is with the implementation of new policies that effect both genders, including less emphasis on long hours and being in the office, and better maternal and paternal leave.

Which, duh.

Employers pay more to people who work longer hours and less to those who need flexibility, many of whom are parents who might need to work from home more often, or shift their hours a bit to be home with their kids so they can, you know, parent.

Even more gross? Despite the fact that it seems to be motherhood that creates the pay gap, its effects are also felt by women who don’t have kids. Because equality?

This is not the best news to hear on Mother’s Day, as we celebrate the women in our lives who perform one of the most overworked and under-appreciated roles in society. But perhaps the greatest Mother’s Day gift of all will be everyone finally realizing how ridiculous this is and doing something about it.