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Journal Article

Degrees of freedom:do graduate women escape the motherhood gap in pensions?


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British women's increasing levels of educational attainment have led to expectations of gender convergence in employment patterns and hence in lifetime earnings and pension income. However, it is not clear how far losses due to motherhood vary with educational qualifications. A polarisation in mothers' employment is evident, according to whether women have high levels of educational and occupational capital and some writers have suggested that a young graduate mother is likely to maintain almost continuous full time employment, with minimal loss of lifetime earnings and no loss of pension income. This paper uses data from the British General Household Surveys from 1994-1996 to examine how the impact of childrearing on women's full and part time employment, earnings and private pension coverage varies according to educational level. Less than half of women with dependent children were employed full time in all educational groups, including graduates. Even among women graduates, only a third of those with a pre- school child were in full time employment. Motherhood substantially reduced women's earnings and private pension coverage at all educational levels, indicating the scale of losses in lifetime earnings and hence in private pension entitlements. The motherhood gap in private pension coverage was least for graduates and greatest for mid-skilled women but in view of the amount of the motherhood gap among graduates it is concluded that the pension protective effect of a degree for mothers has been overstated.

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Sociological Research Online


7 (2)


Education, Childbearing: Fertility, and Wages And Earnings



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