The pay gap between genders is worse for mothers, and it only gets worse as they age.
Women deal with a pay gap in nearly every occupation
The pay gap goes beyond wages and is even greater when we look at workers’ full compensation packages. Women are less likely to have an offer of health insurance from their employer, have retirement savings plans, or have access to paid leave, and perhaps as a result, they are more likely to take leave without pay.
In the past, men had greater levels of both education and experience than women, but these gaps have closed since the 1970s. While men were more likely to graduate from college in the 1960´s and 1970s, since the 1990s, the majority of all undergraduate and graduate degrees have gone to women. While on-the-job experience is also an important determinant of wages, and in the past, women typically left the labor force after marrying or having children, women today are more likely to work throughout their lifetimes.
Motherhood is associated with a wage penalty and lower future career earnings. One reason the gender wage gap has narrowed faster among younger women is that between 1980 and 2013, the median age of first birth rose from 22.6 to 26.0. Because motherhood is associated with a wage penalty and lower wage gains later in a woman’s career these delays in childbirth have helped narrow the pay gap. Research has shown that delaying child birth for one year can increase a woman’s total career earnings and experience by 9 percent. But research shows that a lack of paid leave is one reason mothers with infants leave the labor force and therefore earn less later in life. So policies providing paid sick and family leave encourage women to participate in the labor force and therefore bolster their lifelong earnings.
In general, the pay gap grows over workers’ careers. Young people tend to start their careers with more similar levels of earnings and over time the gender gap grows. While some of the growth in the pay gap is because women are more likely to take time out of the labor force and work fewer hours, a pay gap remains even after accounting for time out of the workforce and job tenure.
Women get fewer raises and promotions and even when women do negotiate, they are likely to receive less than men or be penalized for violating social norms.