by Sara Bean
Originally published: April 12, 2017
A new piece of academic research provides more evidence that the underlying reason for the gender pay gap is the discrepancy between the way women with children are treated compared to men, and other women without children. According to new research from Université Paris-Saclay, mothers are paid 3 percent less for every child they have compared to their female colleagues who do not have children, while fathers suffer no such penalty at all. The figures were compiled from a 16-year study of data from organisations in the French private sector between 1995 and 2011 by Lionel Wilner, Director of Graduate Studies at engineering and statistics school ENSAE, a founding member of Université Paris-Saclay. He separated the effect of childbirth from other firm-specific wage determinants, and accounted for full-time and part-time work, to find that the difference between mothers and non-mothers is approximated a 3 percent lower hourly wage. The effect was found to be more pronounced after the birth of the first child.
Wilner finds that human capital depreciation – an often misused measure of the economic value of an employee’s skill set – is to blame, alongside discrimination against mothers at work. Mothers can be allocated a role with less risky assignments, so are less likely to receive bonuses or more likely to become trapped in low-wage trajectories.
Men do not experience any loss after childbirth, but do not enjoy any benefit suggested by previous research. This indicates that the so-called fatherhood premium has been eroded.