Men with children earn the most

Bookmark and Share

New research indicates that the more children a man has, the more money he stands to earn in Norway. For women, the situation is the opposite. Women without children tend to earn more than those who’ve become mothers.

Researcher Kjersti Misje Østbakken of Norway’s Institutt for samfunnsforskning (Institute for Social Research) told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday that her research shows that if two men are the same age, have similar education and work in the same field, the man with children will earn more than the man without.

Pay gap widening
Men with three children also earn more than those with one or two children, according to Østbakken’s tracking of pay levels from 2002 to 2011. Her research is being published in the Norwegian professional journal Søkelys på arbeidslivet (Spotlight on worklife).

The pay differences have also increased in recent years “so the correlation has become stronger,” Østbakken said. In 2002, a man with one child earned around 2.5 percent more than a comparable man who had no children. By 2011, the difference had risen to 3 percent and the gap widens with more children: In 2002 a man with two or three children earned around 3 percent more than a colleague without children. By 2011, his pay was around 7 percent higher.

The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but Østbakken sees a pattern that “the most productive men also have children.” The most productive people in the labour market also tend to be the most attractive to employers and thus also earn the most, she told DN, “and those who are successful are often successful in several areas of their lives,” both at work and at home.

There was no mention of whether other reasons may come into play, for example that employers can still see men as the main breadwinners in a family and pay them more. Sociologist Margunn Bjørnholt is calling for more research. She wonders whether men consciously or not are rewarded for their experience at caring for a family. “There are lots of opinions on this,” Bjørnholt told DN.

Women’s gap narrows
The research carried out by Østbakken, a doctoral candidate specializing in the relation between children and hourly pay for women and men, evaluated gender, education, work experience, marital status, place of residence, work field and number of children. Those studied were aged 20 to 45.

Women’s pay didn’t vary as widely on the basis of whether they had children, with those without children earning an average of 0.6 percent more than those with children. The “cost” of being a mother has declined but Norwegian women haven’t caught up with men’s pay levels despite the country’s egalitarian policies and work rules. Østbakken ties that to the longer maternity leave that women in Norway take. Even though it’s become common in Norway for men to also take paid paternity leave, it’s generally much shorter.

“It can have to do with the length of the mother’s leave, and that fathers (with shorter leave) can focus more on their jobs than mothers can,” Østbakken told DN. Berglund