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Michelle Budig

Research says men are rewarded when they have children, women punished

Can we talk public policy that impact  families for a second? I usually try to stay away from politics and the like on this site, but I wanted to share something jarring I read in the New York Times recently. It lead:
“One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children,” and then continued, “mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.”
Upsetting but not really surprising if we consider the ongoing struggles women have faced historically to get fair pay. Still, who would’ve thunk that  the opposite is true for men who have children?  Recent data show men are actually rewarded for having children and given a pay bump? It’s based on employers’ outdated notion that men with kids have more mouths to feed and as the “breadwinner”, should earn more to support the family. 
But that assumption is based on a 1950s era caricature of the nuclear family.  We know the definition of “family” has evolved tremendously since then.
Today, 71% of mothers with children work away from the home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add blended families, second marriage families, step families with adult children, and the like. Pew Research Center data also note “that women are the primary breadwinner in 40% of households with children.” 
Yet, companies still reward men with children and punish all others.  Companies are more likely to hire a man with children than a childless man, and they tend to be paid more after they have children.
The piece cited a paper by research group Third Way which said, “High-income men get the biggest pay bump for having children, and low-income women pay the biggest price.”
From the New York Times piece: 

On average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had. [This] study was based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 to 2006, which tracked people’s labor market activities over time. Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.

“Employers read fathers as more stable and committed to their work; they have a family to provide for, so they’re less likely to be flaky,” Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied the parenthood pay gap for 15 years told the paper. “That is the opposite of how parenthood by women is interpreted by employers. The conventional story is they work less and they’re more distracted when on the job.”
The wage gap hurts all in the family because that amounts to less income to go to things like savings, vacations and home renovations for the entire family unit, including the father in the home. This is why fathers too should care if their spouses or partners are getting paid less for the same work. 
Women though, especially, should care about policy that impacts their lives. 
Today, senior White House counsel to U.S. President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett wrote a blog post over at BlogHer highlighting 10 reasons moms and soon-to-be moms and eventual moms should care about these things. Reprinted with permission, they are:
1.      60 percent of children are in households where all parents work—including both dual-earner households and single working parents.
2.      Nearly half of all parents say that they turned down a job because of inadequate work-family balance.
3.      Child care costs have increased 72 percent in the last 25 years, after adjusting for inflation. In three out of five states, child care for an infant costs more than a public university for an 18-year-old.
4.      More than half of college and graduate students are now women. Since the mid-1990s, women have accounted for the majority of postsecondary students, meaning that they will account for the majority of our skilled labor force in the future. In 2013, women ages 25-34 were more than 20 percent more likely than men to be college graduates.
5.      But, among second-earners, women are 17 percentage points more likely to eventually leave the workforce compared to men. In fact, the US is falling behind its peers in keeping women in the workforce. In 1990, the United States ranked 7th out of 24 current developed countries reporting prime-age female labor force participation, about 8 percentage points higher than the average of that sample. By 2013 the United States had fallen to 19th out of those same 24 countries. A recent study found that the relative expansion of family leave and part-time work programs in other developed countries versus the United States explains nearly one-third of the United States’ relative decline.
6.      Children whose mothers received paid maternity leave earn 5 percent higher wages at age 30. Family-friendly practices can also help encourage better bonding between parents and children, which has been shown to lead to better outcomes for children in adulthood. For instance, researchers have shown that children of women who receive paid maternity leave earn 5 percent higher wages at age 30.
7.    On average for every $1 men earn, women still make just 78 cents. That means the average women will have lost $420,00 over her lifetime because of the earnings gap.
8.      Women who reach age 65 are projected to live about 2.5 years longer than 65 year-old men. That means their retirement years could be almost 14 percent longer, putting a premium on retirement saving for women.  In part because of the gender pay gap, women continue to be less prepared for retirement than men. 63 percent of the elderly living below the poverty line are women.
9.      More women in senior roles makes for better, more innovative companies. Greater representation of women in top management positions is associated with better firm performance on several dimensions, and research also finds that women can help drive innovation and better target female customers and employees.
10.  Closing the Male-Female Employment gap could boost U.S. GDP by 9 percent—or more than $1.5 trillion, about $5,000 for every man, woman, and child. The best available evidence suggests that encouraging more firms to consider adopting flexible practices can potentially boost productivity, improve morale, and benefit the U.S. economy as a whole.
If these stark findings are not enough to get us active, involved and seeing what our local, state and Congressional reps can do to change up the status quo, I don’t know what will.

Your thoughts? Add in the comment section below.

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