In 2001, Budig and England published “The Wage Penalty for Motherhood,” the results of a study they conducted which examined whether women’s lower wages were the result of gender or parenting status. Results of their study revealed that a wage penalty of 7% per child existed and that “mother-friendly” characteristics of the jobs did little to explain the penalty (other than the tendency for more mothers than non-mothers to work part-time). This raised the question as to whether a similar penalty existed for fathers, or conversely, do fathers in fact gain from becoming parents?
So, in 2010, Hodges and Budig looked at the question: Is there a fatherhood premium? The researchers found that fatherhood did correspond to an increase in earnings of about 6% per child, however, this applied mainly to those who fit a particular definition of masculinity and mainly to white, educated fathers.
The researchers hypothesized that not all men experience a similar earnings bonus upon becoming a father. They argued that the increase in wages would be higher for men who meet the traditional masculine traits that are most valued in the workplace: authority and dominance over others, economic stability, educational and labor market success, and heterosexuality.
Hodges and Budig further speculated that because this traditional view of masculinity is defined by the experiences of white men, men from minority groups may not be as successful in conveying their masculinity to others in the workplace.
To test their theories they analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) and found that race and education do have a significant impact when evaluating which fathers receive the greatest wage premium. Fathers across all racial groups had significantly higher earnings than men without children, yet white fathers received the highest earnings premium, followed by Latinos and African-Americans. The authors also found different effects based on level of education and race. For instance, white and Latino fathers with bachelor’s degrees earned more than twice as much as their counterparts with only a high school degree. However, the annual wage premium for African-American fathers did not increase significantly with higher educational attainment.
While race and education were important, marital status mattered as well. The fact that fathers were more likely to be married accounted for one-half of their earnings bonus over men who did not have children. Hodges and Budig argue that although the employment status of one’s spouse did not affect fathers’ bonuses overall, the presence of a wife has been shown to generally reduce men’s involvement in household responsibilities. Thus, married men may be better able to devote themselves to their professional ambitions than unmarried men and perceived in the workplace as more of an “ideal worker.”