If you’re a full-time working mom who wouldn’t want it any other way, chances are it’s because you were raised by a working mom who felt the same way.
Henrik Kleven from Princeton University, Camille Landais from the London School of Economics and Jakob Sogaard from the Danish Ministry of Taxation, examined more than three decades of Denmark’s administrative data. Between 1980 and 2013, they noticed the wage gap between women and men narrowed considerably. Before becoming moms, women’s compensation roughly kept pace with men’s. But once they had kids, all bets were off.
In fact, the researchers realized motherhood accounts for pretty much the entire wage gap between men and women in the country. Because of the time they take off to raise kids, the average Danish mom experiences a 20 percent earnings decline, or “child penalty,” as they describe it, in her lifetime.
Economists believe motherhood is a big reason the wage gap is so persistent here in the U.S., too. And it doesn’t just occur because moms take off a few years to raise babies. After they have kids, many women scale back their overall hours, or switch to lower-paying but less time-consuming roles—or are sidelined in less substantial positions by managers who are biased against moms.
When the researchers began to dig into causes for the earnings loss, they realized that women who grew up in homes in which the mother worked a lot relative to the father tended to suffer relatively small child penalties. The inverse was true for those who grew up with stay-at-home moms: They were more likely to scale back their careers once they had kids.
Interestingly enough, the paper found that husbands’ opinions don’t seem to factor into a woman’s decision to work or stay home. The working patterns of a woman’s in-laws made no difference on her child penalty—meaning that it didn’t matter if her husband was raised by a stay-at-home mom or a working mom.
It turns out the single most influential factor when it comes to a woman’s decision about how to balance work and family is what her own mom did growing up.
Which is very good news for working moms with daughters. Not only are your efforts helping narrow the wage gap, you’re also setting your daughter up to make more money too.
So, here’s to badass working moms. May we be them, may we raise them.