The Wage Penalty for Motherhood in a Cross-National Perspective: The Importance of Work-Family Policies and Cultural Attitudes

Michelle J. Budig, University of Massachusetts
Joya Misra, University of Massachusetts
Irene Boeckmann, University of Massachusetts

The relationship between family policies and the size of motherhood penalties cross-nationally is not clearly understood. Using newly collected policy data and microdata from the Luxembourg Income Study, we estimate multi-level models across 22 countries to examine the relationship between country-level family policies and the motherhood wage penalty. We find that, net of individual factors and national public sector size, publicly funded childcare for infants is linked to lower wage penalties. In addition, job-protected parental leave has a curvilinear relationship with motherhood penalties: short leaves are associated with smaller penalties while long leaves are linked to higher wage penalties. Notably, paid paternity leave is also linked to smaller motherhood penalties. In light of findings for other policies, we conclude that despite varying socio-political contexts, family policies that serve to maintain new mothers’ continuous connection to the labor force are most strongly linked to reductions in motherhood wage inequalities.

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Presented in Session 48: Motherhood and Work