Studies: Maternity Negatively Affects Career, Income Especially for the Highly Skilled.

Two recently released studies have found that having a child has a substantial impact on a woman’s career and income, hitting those with MBAs the hardest.


“Women, and to a lesser extent even men who have kids, end up making less than their childless peers,” reported Time Magazine’s Curious Capitalist blogger Stephen Gandel. “And the difference can be large, as much as 40 percent less. The studies show that the wage effect can have a significant impact on when women chose to have children, as well as what professions they pick.”


One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, “The Mommy Track Divides” found that the income hit was particularly hefty for highly skilled women. “High-skilled women who have children tend to earn as much as one-third less over the lifetime of their careers than their childless peers,” Time reported. “Lower-skilled women tend to see their incomes drop by less than 15 percent.”


Another study by two Harvard professors, “The Career Cost of Family” examined the impact of childrearing on highly educated women and found that among mothers who take time off from work to be with their children “women with M.B.A.s suffer the largest percentage of ‘mommy penalty,’ while those with medical degrees suffer the lowest proportionate loss, with female Ph.D.s and lawyers falling somewhere in between,” the New York Times reported. On the upside, the study found, “. . . [M]any professions at the high end (e.g. pharmacy, optometry, some medical specialties, veterinary medicine) have experienced an increase in workplace flexibility driven often by exogenous changes but also endogenously because of increased numbers of women.”


Time observed: “Either in perception or reality, there is judgment in the workforce that people with children lack the ability to work that ‘extra hour’ when needed. That’s why [the researchers] say they saw less of a difference in careers where women have a greater ability to set their own office times or hours, or where more women work for themselves.” (December 2010)