Study Finds Evidence of 'Mommy Penalty' in Workforce

There may be a new and more accurate term to describe the country’s ongoing economic funk – the “mom-cession.” While it’s been widely reported that more men than women have lost jobs during the recent recession – occasionally dubbed the “man-cession” or “he-cession” – a new study finds that laid-off married mothers have the hardest time finding new jobs.

“These findings hold true across different backgrounds, such as occupation, earnings and work history,” says study co-author Brian Serafini, a University of Washington sociology graduate student. “This implies that laid-off moms aren’t just taking part-time jobs or seeing being laid off as a way to opt out of the workforce and embrace motherhood instead.”

Serafini and co-author Michelle Maroto, who recently presented their findings at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, say the study supports the notions of a “motherhood penalty” and a “daddy bonus” in the workplace.

The research, which results from a survey of laid-off workers across the United States, also finds that once reemployed, married mothers experienced a decrease in earnings of $175 more per week compared with married fathers.

“Our study provides evidence of labor-market discrimination against women whose family decisions may signal to employers a lack of commitment to the workplace,” notes Maroto, formerly a University of Washington sociology graduate student and now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alberta.

The researchers examined a national sample of displaced workers across occupations and industries who were laid off due to insufficient work, a plant or company closing, or their shift or job being eliminated. The U.S. Census Bureau collects the data as part of the monthly household questionnaire, the Current Population Survey. Maroto and Serafini examined data from 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.

The 2010 survey, for instance, included nearly 4,400 displaced workers who took an average of 17 weeks to find another job. However, separating the data by marital and parental status revealed that married mothers spent more time between jobs than married fathers.

Meantime, married men consistently fared better than unmarried men, finding jobs sooner.

“This is consistent with the male breadwinner stereotype in that employers favor male heads of households when they are supporting children,” Serafini says.

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20 Aug 2012

By Susan Flynn