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Motherhood Penalty

  • By: Florence Maätita
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

A motherhood penalty refers to the pay gap between women who have children and women who do not. Research by sociologists and economists indicates that mothers earn less than women who do not have children.

Sociologists and economists offer numerous explanations for this motherhood penalty. Some suggest that motherhood is a status, which affects how employers and coworkers evaluate mothers as workers. In essence, employers and coworkers may perceive of mother-workers as less committed to their work and less competent than male workers, regardless of whether these male workers have children. Such perceptions thus affect mothers' experiences with hiring and promotions, which consequently affect their wages.

Another set of explanations for the motherhood penalty is directly connected to the ideology of separate spheres, which holds that men ...

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