The 'when' of gender inequalities: the family gap over the life course and over time

Publication type

Conference Paper


Gabriele Mari

Publication date


It is well established that family formation has negative consequences on women’s wages, while men are unaffected or even gain a bonus. Identifying possible explanations, the “how” and “why” this family gap comes about, has been paramount in the literature. Hereby, I address the question of “when” exactly does parenthood affect wages differentially for women and men, relying on panel data for the UK (BHPS and UKHLS) and Germany (G-SOEP) spanning more than two decades. With a focus on the period preceding first childbirths, I examine whether parents-to-be anticipate the event by changing their labour supply behaviour, self-select into parenthood on the basis of prior wages, or – in the case of women – if they are statistically discriminated. Using both conventional fixed-effects and a difference-in-differences design, I find evidence supporting a scenario of statistical discrimination in Germany, and less so in the UK, as the wages of both mothers-to-be and childless women are pulled down during prime-childbearing years and regardless of realised fertility. For fathers evidence is less clear-cut, pointing at both self-selection on the basis of prior wages and discrete wage spikes (of around 1-2%) the year after each childbirth event. The question of “when” is also declined in terms of change across cohorts: in both countries, motherhood wage penalties seem to have progressively worsened (-40% after ten years from the event in Germany, -30% in the UK). Such a change is not accounted for by differential selectivity into employment across cohorts.


Labour Market, Childbearing: Fertility, Wages And Earnings and Life Course Analysis