Is the Motherhood Wage Penalty Worse at the Top or Bottom?
Jonathan M. Bearak, New York University
Michelle J. Budig, University of Massachusetts
Melissa Hodges, University of Massachusetts
We examine whether the wage penalty for motherhood is proportionately higher or lower for women at higher points in cognitive skill, wage, and race hierarchies. One animating puzzle is that a paper by Ellwood and colleagues found higher penalties for more cognitively skilled women, while a paper using the same data by Budig and Hodges found higher penalties at lower wage levels; given the correlation between skill and wage, it is surprising if both are true. We use all waves of the NLSY79 with fixed effects models and quantile regression. We assess whether penalties (because of and net of experience) are higher for those scoring higher on the AFQT, for those with lower wages, and for black women. We assess the role of marital status in explaining black/white differences in penalties. We attempt a comprehensive portrait of how motherhood penalties vary by advantage.