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The Motherhood Wage Gap and Discrimination: Combining Evidence from Panel Data and Factorial Survey Experiment for Switzerland

NASP International and Interdisciplinary Seminars
9 June 2017, h. 14.30

Speaker: Daniel Oesch (University of Lausanne)

Room A
Via Pace 10, Milan

Survey-based research finds a sizeable wage gap between mothers and non-mothers in most affluent countries. The source of this wage gap is unclear. It can stem either from the unobserved effects of motherhood on productivity – or from employer discrimination against working mothers. This paper opens the black box of the motherhood wage gap by directly measuring discrimination in Switzerland. It does so by combining two methods. First, we use two longitudinal population surveys and fixed-effects regressions to establish the size of the wage residual for motherhood. We find an unexplained wage penalty per child that ranges from 4 to 8 percent, the first child being less consequential than the second and third. Second, we run a factorial survey experiment among HR managers (N=714) whom we asked to assign a starting wage to the résumés of fictitious job candidates. By randomly varying the number of children, we are able to identify discrimination. We find that recruiters assign wages to mothers that, overall, are 2 to 3 percent below those of non-mothers. The wage penalty is larger for younger mothers, increasing to 6 percent for ages 40 and less, but disappears for older mothers or mothers applying for a blue-collar occupation.

08 June 2017
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