The Motherhood Penalty at Midlife: The Long-Term Impact of Birth-Timing on Women’s Careers

Joan R. Kahn, University of Maryland
Javier Garcia-Manglano, University of Maryland
Suzanne M. Bianchi, University of California, Los Angeles

A growing body of research has shown that mothers pay a significant wage penalty for having children, especially while their children are young. In this paper, we take a life course perspective to study the long-term impact of both the number and timing of births on women’s wages and occupations at midlife. We use data from the Young Women’s cohort of the National Longitudinal Study to examine the motherhood gap for women as they age through their forties and fifties. Our underlying question is whether the career penalty (especially for women with early first births) grows narrower or wider as women grow older. In addition to incorporating human capital measures reflecting accumulated work experience and training, we also consider the impact of women’s attitudes reflecting their preferences about gender roles, the value of work and the importance of the family.

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Presented in Session 48: Motherhood and Work