Work Productivity: The Difference Motherhood Doesn't Make?

There is some evidence that the wage gap between men and women is narrowing: when accounting for profession and hours worked, women make about 91 cents for every dollar men make, and in some cases the gap might be as low as five cents.  But among women, mothers make roughly 7 to 14 percent less than childless women, a phenomenon researchers have attributed to the "mommy track" (a career path that allows a mother flexible or reduced work hours but tends to slow or block advancement) and to employers' assumption that mothers are less devoted to their careers than men or childless women.

But this assumption may be wrong, according to a new paper by Matthias Krapf (University of Zurich), Heinrich W. Ursprung (University of Konstanz), and Christian Zimmermann (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis) that will be presented at the Society of Labor Economists meeting in May. In a survey of more than 10,000 economists, the researchers  found that "those with children aren't any less productive than those without. In fact, economists who are parents are slightly more productive than their childless peers, though the difference isn't statistically significant."  Productivity was measured as the number of research papers the economists published.

More specifically, Krapf, Ursprung, and Zimmermann found that:

  • Economists (male or female) with two or more children are more productive than economists with only one child or no children.
  • Right after they had their first child, individual mothers became about 10 percent less productive than they used to be, while fathers didn't see a drop in their efficiency.
  • Mothers with two preteens are about 22 to 33 percent less productive than their childless former selves.
  • For unmarried women, or those without a husband-like partner, research output dropped by about a third in the three years following childbirth.
The authors speculate that "female economists might ... work extra-hard early in their careers in order to firm up their standings in their workplaces. Then, when they do have kids, they at first are less productive compared with their turbo-charged, childless former selves. But at the same time, they also transfer over their organizational skills and work ethics from their pre-kids days, which makes them not any less productive, on average, than their childless peers. [...] Meanwhile, unmarried female economists might get less productive not only because they have less help at home, but also potentially because their kids weren't planned. Unlike their married counterparts, their kids might have come as a surprise—not necessarily at the best possible time in their careers."

Read more: resources:
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Frederique Laubepin

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