Study Finds Academic Women With Children Are More Productive Than Their Childless Peers

frbslThe conventional wisdom is that women with no children are more likely to succeed professionally because their career pursuits are not hindered by family distractions. But a new study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finds that woman economists with two or more children are more productive than their peers who have one or no children.

The authors examined the research production of 10,000 economists and compared the amount of published works with the economists’ number of children. They found that for both men and women, economists with two or more children outperformed their peers in the amount of published research. They did find a drop in productivity among mothers with very small children. But over an entire career, women with two or more children tended to be more productive.

The authors admit that their research pool is made up of highly educated and likely financially well-off individuals. These individuals are more likely than other parents to have maternity leave, paid sick days, and subsidized child care options with their employers than women in lower-paying jobs. It is also very difficult to assess the productivity of men and women in many low-paying jobs. Therefore it is impossible to extrapolate these results to in any way represent productivity gains for all women with two or more children.

Nevertheless, the authors conclude that “there is widespread conviction that motherhood is extremely costly in terms of professional career advancement. In particular, it is often argued that the only way for young women to make a challenging career is to remain childless. Our study of the academic labor market arrives at a somewhat less dreary picture.”

The research, Parenthood and Productivity of Highly Skilled Labor: Evidence from the Groves of Academe, may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/Study

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