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Earning Power!: Paternity Power

Friday, October 07, 2005

Paternity Power

If you haven’t heard, the percentage of men taking paternity leave has risen from 7% in the year 2000 to 16% in 2005, according to Working Mother magazine. Chances are if you are a working father, you may have missed the news. In some companies, like KPMG, as much as 80% of new fathers take time off.

This trend is exemplified in a study of Generation X dads that illustrated they spend about an hour more per day than their fathers did. It took a little digging, but a Mothering Magazine 1980 study of working fathers revealed that they spent an average of 38 seconds per day of quality time with their children. Adding up the hours over weeks, months and years, there has been a quantifiable difference in quality time with dad nowadays!

This is great news for working women. Why? Because, quality time with dad means relief for mom. Being a mother has been strongly linked with the wage gap. If men can hold their salaries and still get more time with the kids, we are on the right path toward work-life balance between the sexes.

How strong is the link? The wage gap between working mothers and working fathers is seen unexplainably widening in US Bureau of Labor statistics. However, this month a University of Michigan study revealed that housework specifically has an adverse effect on women’s wages.

Could something as mundane as housework be causing a gap in wages? In part, yes. But more specifically it is the amount and type of the work. Obviously guys are putting in hours on home maintenance, yard work, auto repair, even loading the dishwasher. Something else is going on at home that is no secret at work. Women are still the primary child raisers.

Women between the ages of 20-49 do twice the housework as men their age, but the true cause of the wage effect is “child care in conjunction with household duties.” This is because, as U-M economist Paula Malone says, “Child caretakers cannot postpone care until the weekend or convenient times.”

The Journal of Contemporary Economic Policy calculated that each hour of housework reduces women’s wages by 0.1 to 0.4 percent. A University of Toledo study shows women did 10 hours of housework weekly, so this would mean up to 4% less pay per week for working moms. According to both studies, number of housework hours does not affect wages of women over 50 (who put in more hours of housework than younger women, but not child care). Nor did housework affect wages for men of any age.

If the difference between men and women’s housework is twice as important as job tenure, market hours, or education level as indicated by these studies, then men have a key role in raising women's wages by starting at home. Men participating more in fatherhood can not only have an invaluable impact on their own quality of life and the lives of their children, but it can inadvertently raise their household income level through more effective management of the working mother’s time and therefore, family income.


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