In Monopoly, it could be a chance card: “You have been deducted a Mommy Penalty. Pay the bank one-third of your net worth.” Aside from the cost of raising kids in general, there’s no financial perk to being a mother on payday.
Motherhood translates, on average, into a wider gender wage gap in developed countries than the one already in effect for childless women when compared with working men. (According to the calculations of an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report released late last year, in Canada, it’s the difference between 30 per cent if you’re a mom and 7 per cent if you aren’t.)
Not so for dads. According to a new study, fatherhood comes with a salary premium, provided certain circumstances are met. Harvard University sociologist Alexandra Killewald crunched longitudinal survey data in the United States and found, as The Atlantic reports, that “married, biological fathers who live with their families” enjoy a 4-per-cent salary boost – so long as they have a spouse at home holding down the fort. A working spouse erased the advantage, and stepdads, unmarried dads and dads who didn’t live with their kids didn’t get the premium either.
So what’s the take-home? First of all, it may be that dads who earn more money are just more likely to have wives who work less. (And dads coming out of divorce situations may have had more job instability because of the family break-up, and unmarried dads may have less education that limits their job prospects. The study, on the other hand, didn’t find that race influenced whether these more traditional dads got the bonus.) In what would seem to be a given, Killewald suggests to The Atlantic that families with a mom at home with the kids “may make the man feel even more pressure to provide as a father and husband.”
There are a lot of hidden factors behind wage gaps, among them chosen professions, time in the work force and starting salary. (On the last point, moms also get sold-out: In an earlier study that used blind test of résumés, those from moms were not only less likely to get the job, they were also offered about $11,000 (U.S.) less in annual pay.)
But it’s not a leap to assume that the same biases in the work places that set a mommy penalty also may be influencing a daddy premium. The same element – i.e. offspring – that may be perceived to make a female employee “unreliable and distracted,” could also stereotype a man as “dependable and stable.” And the study is also reflecting a workplace that still endorses, if more subtly today, a traditional family model. Killewald told The Atlantic that more research is needed to determine whether men “who violate the normative expectations” face employer discrimination.