Why women get paid less than men: Motherhood

Most economists believe the gap between women’s and men’s wages does not stem primarily from employers paying women less than men for the same job. It occurs mostly because men and women take different jobs and follow different career paths. Part of this difference may be a result of discrimination in hiring and promoting. Much, though, is a result of the constraints of motherhood…

After accounting for a number of differences, from grades to course choices, the economists concluded that women’s pay deficit was almost entirely because they interrupted their careers more often and tended to work fewer hours. The rest was mostly explained by career choices: for instance, more women worked at nonprofits, which pay less.

That women are being paid less than men because they shoulder more of the family burden doesn’t mean the pay gap is unimportant. But closing it further requires changes that allow workers to mesh their jobs better with their family duties. This might mean flexible schedules and more parental leave to accommodate working mothers. It could include nudging men to participate more in bringing up children, using tools like “use it or lose it” paid parental leave.

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