International Economics and Economic Policy

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 363–382 | Cite as

Mind the gap—German motherhood risks in figures and game theory issues

  • Christina BollEmail author
Original Paper


After childbirth, while parents are delighted at public cash transfers like the German ‘Elterngeld’ (parental leave benefit), the decline in mothers’ earnings capacity is an awkward issue that tends to hover in the background. This paper aims firstly to make a contribution to quantifying West German mothers’ foregone gross earnings that stem from intermittent labor market participation, due to the birth of their first child. Secondly, it discusses behavioral outcomes of the resulting implicit child costs in a dynamic bargaining model of household decisions. The regression results of a Mincer-type wage equation, with German Socio-Economic Panel Data (West) for the period 1984–2005 and correcting for sample selection (Two-step Heckman), indicate considerable wage penalties due to birth-related employment withdrawal. On the closure of the fecund window, mothers suffer gross hourly wage cuts of up to 25%, compared to their equally educated, non-stop full-time employed counterparts, and the total of annualized losses amounts to as much as 201,000 Euros. Although foregone earnings do not matter as much in stable partnerships, they turn out to be a veritable asymmetric specialization risk that can prevent women from having children, if divorce seems sufficiently probable.


Cooperative bargaining Wage loss Fertility 

JEL Classifications

C71 J31 J13 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI)HamburgGermany

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