Working Papers

The Within-Job Motherhood Wage Penalty in Norway, 1979-1996


The motherhood wage penalty is a substantial obstacle to progress in gender equality at work. Using matched employer–employee data from Norway (1979–1996, N = 236,857 individuals, N = 1,027,462 individual–years), a country with public policies that promote combining family and career, we investigate (a) whether the penalty arises from differential pay by employers or from the sorting of employees on occupations and establishments and (b) changes in the penalties during a period with major changes in family policies. We find that: (a) The penalty to motherhood was mostly due to sorting on occupations and occupation–establishment units (mothers and nonmothers working in the same occupation and establishment received similar pay), and (b) The wage penalties to motherhood declined substantially over the 18-year period.