International Women’s Day 2015

The motherhood pay gap: A review of the issues, theory and international evidence

Evidence that mothers suffer a wage penalty over and above the penalty for being a woman raises concerns not only for gender equality but also for the capacity of societies to manage a sustainable balance between their economic aims of active female participation in paid work and the social aims of providing a fair distribution of income to support the reproduction and rearing of children. These concerns underpin ILO Conventions designed to combat inequality in women’s position in paid employment, especially associated with motherhood status.

The study is organized as follows:
Part I discusses the measurement issues, especially associated with statistical modelling of the motherhood pay gap, and presents headline results for a range of low-, middle- and high-income countries. It also addresses evidence of a wage premium for fathers.

Part II presents a critical analysis of six core methodological issues rawing on studies from multiple disciplinary approaches.

Part III assesses the merits of competing economic and sociological explanations for the motherhood pay gap, with a focus on productivity-related explanations on the one hand and accounts that emphasize the gendered nature of institutions and sex discrimination on the other.

Part IV investigates the impact of a country’s institutional environment with a particular emphasis on its welfare and family system.

Part V sets out six major policy recommendations and considers issues for future research.