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Motherhood and the Gender Productivity Gap

Using Danish matched employer-employee data, I compare the relative pay of men and women to their relative productivity as measured by production function estimation. I find that the gender “productivity gap” is 8 percent, implying that almost two thirds of the residual gender wage gap is due to productivity differences between men and women. Motherhood plays an important role, yet it also reveals a puzzle: the pay gap for mothers is entirely explained by productivity, whereas the gap for non-mothers is not. In addition, the decoupling of pay and productivity for women without children happens during their prime-child bearing years. These estimates are robust to a variety of specifications for the impact of observables on productivity, and robust to accounting for endogenous sorting of women into less productive firms using a control-function approach. This paper also provides estimates of the productivity gap across industries and occupations, finding the same general patterns for mothers compared to women without children within these subgroups.

Authors: 
Yana Gallen, Harris School of Public Policy
Publication Date: 
December, 2018
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2018-091
File Description: 
First version, September 12, 2018