Pay and parenthood

It has long been assumed that when a working woman takes time off to have children, her career, and pay, can suffer. But a new report has found that when men become fathers, their pay actually increases — by an average of 19 per cent compared with their childless male colleagues.

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank (UK) has uncovered this 'fatherhood bonus', the flipside to the 'motherhood penalty' that hits many women when they have children. The report reveals that the difference between the pay of mothers and fathers is 26 per cent, for parents in their early forties. A decade ago it was even higher, at 32 per cent.

The IPPR report suggests that the 'fatherhood bonus' could be down to two key factors: first, that many men strive to become breadwinners as soon as they have children, and so apply for higher-paid positions. It also speculates that male bosses with children are more likely to give higher pay rises to employees who are also fathers, ahead of men who are childless, out of sympathy.

The research reveals that mothers born in 1958 earned 14 per cent less by the time they were 40, in 1998, than they would have done if they had not had children. For mothers who are in their early forties today — those born in 1970 — the "motherhood penalty" is slightly smaller, but there is still a substantial 11 per cent difference between working mums and childless women.

Fathers born in 1958 earned 16 per cent more by the age of 40 than men who did not have children. The 'fatherhood bonus' is even greater for today's dads in their forties: an average of 19 per cent more than working men with no children.

The IPPR report, which compared the salaries of those in full-time work only, found it made no difference what age men had their children, their earnings still rose. For women, there is an advantage in having children later, with those becoming mothers in their early twenties suffering a greater pay penalty than those leaving it until their thirties.

Despite the differences between mothers and fathers in their forties and fifties, the gender pay gap for men and women in their twenties has almost disappeared.

The analysis is part of a wider IPPR report, to be published in the new year, into the aspirations of men and women born in 1958 and 1970, assessing the impact of 50 years of feminism on the way we live now.

The IPPR said: "Academic evidence suggests that there are a number of factors that can help explain the 'fatherhood pay bonus'. In some cases, upon becoming fathers, men increase their earning capacity because they feel a greater responsibility to breadwinning for the family (and to compensate for their partner's reduced earnings).

"Other research suggests that fatherhood is valued by some employers because of the perceived loyalty it may bring, and is therefore rewarded. Other reasons suggest that some fathers wait to have children until they feel they earn enough to support a family."

The think tank said there was also international academic evidence suggesting that the 'motherhood penalty' was strongest in countries with policies and cultural values that support the ideal of the male breadwinner and the female homemaker.


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