The Daddy Bonus: Which Fathers Get Paid More at Work?

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One of the more intriguing explanations for the pesky and persistent gender gap in wages is that becoming a mother tends to depress a woman’s ability to earn, while becoming a father has the opposite effect, especially among white-collar workers.

Various explanations have been offered to explain the daddy bonus. It may be that fatherhood has a tendency to focus the mind on providing, so guys work longer hours. It’s also possible that men who are fathers are considered to be more responsible and promotable, or conversely, that they don’t become fathers until they’re earning the big bucks. It may be that bosses feel sympathy for fathers because they know how damnably expensive children are. Or it may simply be that dads would rather stay at the office, where everybody behaves like a grown up, than go home to the squirminess and bodily fluid-filled drudgery of family life.

But Michelle Budig, associate professor of sociology, and Melissa Hodges a Ph.D. candidate, both at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, found that the paternal payday persisted, even when they adjusted for years of service or hours spent at work. In other words, the salary difference was not because the guys worked harder or were more experienced. It was because they were fathers. (More on The Scoop on Raising a Baby, From Two Mom Docs)

In a study published in December’s Gender & Society, the two authors crunch numbers from the National Longitundinal Survey of Youth to find that while fathers of all racial or ethnic groups get a salary bump, not everybody gets the same raise.

For a start the men have to be married: there’s no baby-daddy bonus. Also it helps if they’re white, college-educated professionals or managers. “Married, white fathers receive a bonus in annual earnings of 8.3%, or roughly $2, 214, while married African American fathers get a bonus of 7.3% or $1,538,” says Hodges. “Married Latinos receive a 9.2% bonus, which amounts to roughly $2,207.”

Within racial and ethnic groups there were some interesting further differences. Latinos got a bigger bump if they had a traditional family structure, where the wife did not work outside the home. This made no  difference in white or black households. Whites and Latinos with a higher level of education got a bigger bump, while education had no effect on the size of African American’s daddy bonus.

And of course, in the way of things, the men in the most socially advantaged positions to begin with, college-educated, in managerial jobs in professional occupations, were the chief beneficiaries.

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