Maternity leave hurts skilled, high-paid white women the most financially
- A new study shows that working women who stand to lose the most career-wise once they re-enter the workforce after maternity leave are professional, high-earning white women, Quartz reports. The study, published in the American Sociological Review, showed that highly compensated white women with high-level skills lost on average 10% of their income per child when they chose to stay home with their newborns.
- Lost income rates for low-income, less skilled women were between 4% and 7% per child. Black women lost the least amount of income, 3% to 4%. However, the loss showed little disparity between highly paid, highly skilled black women and black women with less skills and compensation. Quartz said the study didn’t explain the racial disparities in lost income.
- One explanation given for the larger income loss among white professional women versus other working women is their job experience. Their wage rates tend to grow faster, so even a short amount of time away from work can result in a greater loss of income. New York University sociology professor Paula England told Quartz that low-paid, less skilled women aren’t hurt as much financially because their pay doesn’t increase as often or as much.
England said companies can help women who take time out to care for their families by creating a culture that doesn’t punish them for choosing to do so. She’s right. Employers can make their workplaces more attractive to job candidates by offering paid leave to mothers and fathers. Paid leave could reduce the loss in incomOe and, in some cases, help subsidize the cost of day care for families.
One explanation of the loss-income disparity between white professional women and other women could be the length of time low-paid, low-skilled women are off the job. They’re less likely to have paid leave and therefore less able to afford to stay out of work without pay for as long as more affluent women.