Working Papers

From Motherhood Penalties to Fatherhood Premia

The New Challenge for Family Policy


The processes that occur in the family are today probably the largest obstacle to continued progress in gender equality in the workplace. Gender differences in wages between single men and women are consistently found to be considerably smaller than among men and women who are married or have children. This study examines how family processes affect gender differences on wages using longitudinal matched employee-employer data from Norway, 1980-1997. We find that over this period the large wage penalty initially associated with marriage and children for women decreases substantially, so that by 1997 women who do the same work for the same employer earn similar wages, regardless of marital status or motherhood. This is not true among men, where the small wage premia for marriage and fatherhood remain relatively constant across this period. Thus, while gender differences at the beginning of this period were primarily due to women being penalized for marriage and motherhood, by the end of this period, family processes create gender differences in wages primarily through the premia for men. These results suggest that Norwegian family policies have been largely successful at ameliorating the wage penalties for women, so that the role of family on gender differences in wages is now primarily due to the male premia. We explore how these processes play out in wage growth and promotions, and conclude by discussing the policy implications of these findings for Norway and the United States.