Mothers earn less than childless women

Career interruptions and marital status affect earnings gap
||Last Updated: 06/04/2009

Women with children earn significantly less than those without children, mostly due to the career interruptions mothers experience, according to Statistics Canada.

"Earnings of women with and without children," based on data from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, found that from 1993 to 2004, average hourly earnings of women with children were 12 per cent below those of women without children.

At younger ages, the gap between women with and without children was quite small. At the age of 20, for example, the earnings of women with and without children were $8.60 and $9.50, respectively (2004 dollars), a gap of 10 per cent.

At the age of 30, the gap widened to 19 per cent. Although it shrank slightly between the ages of 34 and 38, it widened after and at age 40 the gap became 21 per cent.

Much of this widening gap can be attributed to the career interruptions of mothers. Women with children had almost a six-year difference between their actual and potential work experience, while women without children had a disparity of just more than one year.

Long career interruptions had a strong negative impact on the earnings of mothers, with the difference in average hourly earnings between childless women and mothers with more than three years of interruption was close to 30 per cent at the age of 40.

The marital status of women also affected their earnings with the gap between single mothers and single childless women being almost twice as large as that between married mothers and married childless women. Once other individual characteristics were controlled for, the gap for married mothers disappeared, while that for single mothers persisted.

Well-educated (more than high school) mothers incurred greater earnings losses than less educated mothers. This was still so even after controlling for other individual characteristics.

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