Moms are bearing the brunt of recession, study shows

Aug. 17, 2012 at 6:56 AM ET

 Though the media has focused on the plight of unemployed dads, it’s moms who are suffering the most in the current recession, a new study shows. 

The study, which looked at the outcomes for laid-off workers across the United States, found that married women with kids spent more time in-between jobs than married dads.

Making matters worse for the moms was the big pay cut they took once they finally found a job: On average moms lost $175 per week more than dads, according to the study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

For the study, co-author Michelle Maroto, an assistant professor in the sociology department at the University of Alberta, scrutinized four sets of data from the Displaced Workers Supplement, a nationally representative survey conducted by the Census Bureau every other year.

The 2010 survey, for example, included nearly 4,400 displaced workers (people who had been laid off or lost a job because of a plant closing), who took an average of 17 weeks to find a new job.

When the researchers broke down the data according to marital and parental status, they found that moms experienced a significant “motherhood penalty” while fathers got a “daddy bonus.”

Maroto’s data doesn’t offer explanations as to why moms are taking such a big hit, but there have been hints from experimental studies.

Recent research has shown that employers will choose a dad over a mom because they fear that moms won’t be as available or committed to the job, Maroto says.

The assumption is that moms are more likely than dads to make the family their top priority. So, if a child gets sick, it will be the mom, and not the dad, who takes time off from work.

Intriguingly, employers are more likely to hire single women than a single man. Maroto wasn’t sure what to make of that. But, she points out, when single men and single women do find new jobs, they take an equal hit to their salaries – which ends up being a lot larger, by $123 per week, than that experienced by married men

For women who fear they might be in danger of suffering from the motherhood penalty when looking for a new job, Maroto has some advice: Don’t volunteer anything about your family in job applications and interviews. 

“What I’d say to mothers with children is that you don’t necessarily have to disclose your personal details when you’re applying for a job,” she says. “It’s definitely not something you want to indicate on our resume.” 

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