, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 1-21

First online:

Explaining the Motherhood Wage Penalty During the Early Occupational Career

  • Jeremy StaffAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University Email author 
  • , Jeylan T. MortimerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Minnesota

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Prior research shows that mothers earn lower hourly wages than women without children, and that this maternal wage penalty cannot be fully explained by differences between mothers and other women in work experience and job characteristics. This research examines whether the residual motherhood wage penalty results from differences between mothers and other women in the accumulation of work interruptions and breaks in schooling. Using longitudinal data for 486 women followed from ages 19 to 31 in the Minnesota Youth Development Study, we find that accumulated months not in the labor force and not enrolled in school explain the residual pay gap between mothers and other women.


Motherhood Wage attainments Work and family