Job Changes, Employment Exits, and the Motherhood Wage Penalty

Jessica Looze, University of California, Los Angeles

Although previous research has found that much of the motherhood wage penalty can be explained by differences between mothers and childless women in human capital acquisition, job experience, work hours, and unobserved characteristics, these reasons do not fully explain the penalty. The portion of the penalty that remains unexplained is often attributed to some combination of lower work effort among mothers and discrimination by employers. In this paper I examine another possible mechanism: job mobility, or changing from one job to another. I use panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (NLSY79) and fixed effects models. I find that different patterns of family and non-family voluntary job changes and exits account for roughly one third of the remaining penalty. Moreover, job mobility patterns vary markedly depending upon motherhood timing, which may help explain why women who bear children in early adulthood face the largest penalties for motherhood.

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Presented in Session 44: Gender, Work, and Family: Policies and Inequalities