The careers and time use of mothers and fathers


This report from UK think tank the IFS looks at how different parenting roles affect the development of gender pay gaps.

The different roles played by men and women upon becoming parents, with respect to paid work and childcare, are a crucial part of the development of gender pay gaps. It is often argued that these stem from pre-existing gaps in earnings within opposite-gender couples – since men already earn a little more than women, on average, even before they have children – which drive decisions around who reduces paid work once children are born. But new analysis shows that this divide occurs even when the mother had the higher wage in the household pre-childbirth – as is the case for 38% of heterosexual couples where both partners worked before parenthood. In these couples, 13% of higher-paid women still leave paid work after their child is born – compared with just 3% of their lower-wage male partners. Of those higher-paid women who do continue to work, we see a significant reduction in working hours (a fall of 26% on average) while in contrast we see little or no reduction in the paid hours of fathers – even where they earn less than their female partners before their child is born. Recent evidence from the pandemic points in much the same direction: even when mothers were the primary earners pre-crisis, their paid work was still interrupted more than that of their lower-earning partners in order to meet additional childcare demands.

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