Do Highly Paid, Highly Skilled Women Experience the Largest Motherhood Penalty?

Paula England, Jonathan Bearak, Michelle J. Budig, Melissa J. Hodges

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Motherhood reduces women’s wages. But does the size of this penalty differ between more and less advantaged women? To answer this, we use unconditional quantile regression models with person-fixed effects, and panel data from the 1979 to 2010 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79). We find that among white women, the most privileged—women with high skills and high wages—experience the highest total penalties, estimated to include effects mediated through lost experience. Although highly skilled, highly paid women have fairly continuous experience, their high returns to experience make even the small amounts of time some of them take out of employment for childrearing costly. By contrast, penalties net of experience, which may represent employer discrimination or effects of motherhood on job performance, are not distinctive for highly skilled women with high wages.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1161-1189
    Number of pages29
    JournalAmerican sociological review
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


    • gender
    • labor markets
    • motherhood
    • wage trajectories

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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