Long Work Hours and the Effect of Motherhood on Earnings

Eunjeong Paek , University of Southern California

Studies have found that working long hours can play an important role in gender inequality, but the impact of working long hours on the motherhood penalty remains largely unknown. This study examines whether working long hours alters the motherhood penalty. On the one hand, overwork could have a protective effect on mothers’ earnings by signaling work commitment or increasing the autonomy to reduce unpaid work. On the other hand, overwork could exacerbate the motherhood penalty by intensifying work-family conflict or introducing normative discrimination. The author uses the data from the NLSY to model the earnings penalty. The results support that among white women, mothers who work long hours have a lower penalty than full-time workers. Once controlling for human capital and work effort, however, working long hours loses its protective effect. The findings suggest that overwork itself may not be protective, but mothers who work long hours may experience the smaller penalty because of positive selection.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions