The roots of the gender pay gap lie in childhood

Women follow in their mothers’ footsteps when choosing whether to scale back their careers after having children.

IT IS well known that parenthood tends to hurts women’s careers but not men’s. Numerous studies have shown that as a group, having children lowers women’s lifetime earnings, an outcome known as the “child penalty”. A wide range of individual decisions account for this effect. Some women work fewer hours, or not at all, when their children are young. Others switch to jobs that are more family-friendly but lower-paid. There is also substantial variation in the size of the earnings decline, ranging from zero all the way up to 100% (in the case of women who stop working altogether).

One new academic paper uncovers an intriguing factor that helps to predict whether the reduction in a woman’s income due to having children is likely to be large or small: the choices made during her childhood by her own mother.

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