An article in The Atlantic earlier last week jumped out at me, as it had the term “Mommy-Track” in the title. It brought up some important findings.
Researchers Matthias Krapf at the University of Zurich, Heinrich W. Ursprung at the University of Konstanz, and Christian Zimmermann at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis used a sample size of more than 10,000 economists and discovered that those with children aren’t less productive than those without. In addition, economist parents are slightly more productive than their peers without children, though there is not a significant statistical difference.
The study’s productivity measure was the number of research papers the economists published. This new paper will be presented at the Society of Labor Economists meeting in May.
These results are limited because they only examine economics, a white-collar and easily measured profession. Moms in other professions might see vastly different results. There should be studies done measuring other professions.
The Atlantic article also pointed out the wage gap between mothers and childless women: a University of New Mexico study found that women with kids earn up to 14 percent less than women without children.
This is where the “mommy track” comes into play: Some moms exit the workforce completely for a few years after having children and lose their experience and contacts to some extent. Or a mom might choose to work for a nonprofit instead of a large firm because she needs to leave at 5 p.m. each day to pick up the kids from school.
Of course, the more hidden explanation could be employer discrimination.
Advocacy group A Better Balance often sees women returning from maternity leave who are given less work or dead end assignments. “And this type of discrimination really drags down wages for women because they get off track, and even worse off and pushed out of the workforce,” Dina Bakst, head of the group, told NPR.
Many employers in today’s society judge workers who have kids—it is a sad fact. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait until the next decade to see a change. This new study of economists should give employers something to ponder before judging workers who have kids or deciding not to hire moms of young kids.