Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Wage Gap is about Motherhood

In Denmark, at least. The data from a big new Danish survey:

Women who don't have children  continue on the same trajectory as men, and in fact earn a little more, I suppose because many women who don't have children are highly educated and/or strong careerists. But women who have children fall off that trajectory and never climb back. More detailed data shows that mothers work fewer hours than men or women without children, more of them leave the work force, and they get lower pay, and the sum of all these is the decline you see in the chart.

Via Kevin Drum.


G. Verloren said...

...isn't this true in most modern western countries, though? Someone has to stay home to take care of the kids, and that's traditionally been women.

Wages always drop when the amount of time available to spend working drops. If we lived in a culture where men were the predominant caretakers of children, then we'd see their wages drop similarly instead.

Part of the problem is clearly the traditional influences of patriarchy. But perhaps another part might be the inflexibility of work scheduling. It would be far more fair if both parents could take equal amounts of time off their respective work schedules each day to care for their children, but the fact is that our modern work day isn't easily divided up.

Employers want to have a single employee who stays at work all day, rather than having two employees who each work a half shift each. This forces parents into a sort of "all or nothing" scenario, and what typically happens is one spouse works full time and the other spouse stops working almost entirely. It's incredibly rare to be in a situation where you change from working 8 hours every day to working only 4 hours a day, and maintain the same wages and keep proportional weekly hours, and when it is possible you're almost always changing jobs to do it.

I'd be curious to see how these numbers compare to the rest of Europe. I think really all this chart tells us is that we tend to expect women to be the ones to trade work time for childcare time, which we already knew.

John said...

There is also the issue that when some women have small children they lose interest in work and especially in "getting ahead." I have observed this in some of my friends. Since I think we drastically over-value money and career success, I think this means having children makes women wiser.