The long-term costs of family trajectories: women’s later-life employment and earnings across Europe
The “motherhood earnings penalty” is a well-established finding in many Western countries. However, a divide between mothers and nonmothers might oversimplify reality given that the family life course has diversified over the last decades. In addition, whether family choices have consequences for women’s employment and earnings in later life is not well known, particularly in a comparative perspective. Using data on 50- to 59-year-old women from the Generations and Gender Programme, the British Household Panel Survey, and SHARELIFE for 22 European countries, we derive a typology of women’s family trajectories and estimate its association with women’s later-life employment and earnings. Whereas family trajectory–related differences with regard to employment were relatively small, our findings reveal a clear, long-lasting family trajectory gradient in earnings. Childless women (with or without a partner) as well as single mothers had higher personal earnings than women whose family trajectories combined parenthood and partnership. Moreover, in societies in which reconciliation of work and family during midlife is less burdensome, labor market outcomes of women following different family trajectories converge. Our findings show that women’s fertility and partnership behavior are inevitably interrelated and jointly influence employment and earning patterns until later in life. The results imply that promoting equal employment opportunities could have long-lasting effects on women’s economic independence.
Volume and page numbers
57 , 1007 -1034
Open Access; This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.