Tuesday, May 1, 2018

econlife - More on the Mom Penalty by Elaine Schwartz

During February, we had lots to say about the mommy penalty. Now there is more.

Our first stop is a cartoon and then a study from Denmark.

The Cartoon

In “You Should’ve Asked,” French cartoonist Emma perfectly sums up the mommy penalty in two words: Mental Load.

Emma tells us that, “When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he’s viewing her as the manager of household chores…So it’s up to her to know what needs to be done and when…” And to cope with home as her second full-time job.

This is a brief excerpt from a much longer (phenomenal) cartoon:


The Denmark Study

To remember the quantitative side of the mental load, just think, “20%.” From 1980 to 2013, the long run gender pay gap averaged close to 20%.


Although the data is from Denmark, it is not just about them. Initially, the Scandinavian countries did have less of a gender pay gap. Then though, their progress slowed, others accelerated, and all of us are close to the same spot now.

Below, the convergence is evident:



Asking why that gap continues, the authors of this study say it is the children. Women switch to more family friendly firms and jobs. They work for fewer hours. Their pay dives– initially down close to 30%. Meanwhile for men, no change.

You can see the drop for women right after a first child was born. Even 20 years later, it never bounced back:


Furthermore, this study’s authors emphatically believe that we have causation here, not correlation.

Our Bottom Line:  Human Capital

Because we are also talking about raising children, we can ask if it’s good or bad for them that women are drawn to the home.

If you support the “good” side, then comparative advantage comes into play. Thinking traditionally, you believe that women are more suited to childrearing.  Consequently, they should be doing more of it and accept the opportunity cost.

On the other hand, blaming outdated social norms, you could believe that moms who work should not be tethered to the home. The data below is from 2002 but might still prevail:

Whichever, your side, we can all agree that most women have more of a mental load in the home than their partners.

My sources and more: If you go to just one link after econlife, do see the entire cartoon. But if you do continue to the academic side, this paper is a possibility.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.