, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 1–21 | Cite as

Explaining the Motherhood Wage Penalty During the Early Occupational Career

  • Jeremy StaffEmail author
  • Jeylan T. Mortimer


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 



Grants titled “Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth” from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD44138) and formerly from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843) funded this research. The first author is grateful for support from a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in Population Research from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (K01 HD054467). The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the sponsors. A prior version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, March 29–31, 2007. We are grateful to Jennifer Hook, D. Wayne Osgood, and Stacy Silver for comments on a prior draft as well as to Christina Cummins for research assistance.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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