Do gender and race matter in debates around wage gaps for parents?

Equal Lives researchers Zachary Van Winkle and Anette Fasang publish new research showing links between motherhood and wage penalties.

New research (open access) published by the Equal Lives team in the Journal of Marriage and Family adds further weight to concerns around the wage penalties linked with motherhood.

In the paper, Zachary Van Winkle and Anette Fasang used intersectional and life course approaches to assess how parenthood wage gaps vary across individual lives for different gender and race groups in the United States and in order to see how and where inequalities existed and persisted.

Findings show the largest wage penalties for white mothers of many children and the largest fatherhood premiums for white men of many children. But the research also reveals important gender and race differences in terms of life course timing and persistency.

When motherhood wage penalties and fatherhood wage premiums emerge in the life course is similar for all racial groups. However, parenthood wage gaps are limited to brief life course stages for minority men and women, but are longer-lived for white men and women.

For Black and Hispanic women, motherhood wage penalties are concentrated around age 30, but do not diminish for white women. Similarly, substantial fatherhood premiums are evident longer in the early life courses of white and Hispanic men than in the lives of Black men.

Commenting on the findings and their implications, Zachary said:

Our findings indicate that inequalities between white mothers and fathers are large early in the life course when young white men reap the benefits of fatherhood, and continue to increase as women bear the burden of motherhood. Inequalities between minority men and women seem to develop in a similar way with two important distinctions.

First, differences between Black men and women, and Hispanic men and women, are smaller to begin with and increase to a lesser extent when compared to white men and women. This is because of smaller fatherhood premiums early in the life course and smaller motherhood penalties later in the life course for minority men and women. A second important distinction is that inequalities between minority men and women are shorter lived than for white men and women, mostly because motherhood penalties for Black and Hispanic women are less persistent than for white women.