American birth rates have reached a one-hundred year low. It’s no great shock, as the economy tanked and raising healthy, happy children has increasingly become a question of cents over sentiment. For mothers especially, children signify not only an expenditure, but an overall reduction in earnings.
Motherhood Affects Income, Income Affects Motherhood
That’s not news. But the newest twist on the maternal penalty story is that low-income mothers suffer more of a penalty for their children than do their high-income counterparts. This fact, discussed in the New York Times Economix Blog, seems counterintuitive. After all, don’t high-income mothers have more money to lose?
Their Situations are Worlds Apart
From The Times:
Highly paid women are more likely than women earning less to postpone child-rearing. Early commitment to their careers reduces the economic impact of becoming a mother. But highly paid women also derive significant advantages from greater resources. The ability to purchase reliable child-care services, for instance, makes it easier to maintain high levels of participation in paid employment.
Women with lower earnings are more likely to cycle in and out of jobs, forced to quit if child-care arrangements fall through or they experience a family health crisis. This employment instability tends to lower their hourly wages and may also lead employers to be wary of hiring them.
A Lack of Advocates
As with most economic scenarios, the low-income woman gets the short end of the stick. Our surprise at this—not that the low-income mother has a hard time of it, but that the consequences of motherhood are more severe on her income—is indicative of our larger problem, our general ignorance as to the socio-economic state of America today. Notably, the low-income mother’s situation is so far from that of the high-income mother that they can see little similarity in each other. When we balk at the gender gap in the workplace or the lack of female CEOs in the Fortune 500, we’re indignant on behalf of the high-income mothers. But who will champion their low-income counterparts?
Tell us in the comments: What have your experiences been with working motherhood? Are you a working mother? Was your mom?