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The Motherhood Wage Gap for U.S. and First-generation Immigrant and Native Women

June 2013

Anjali Srivastava, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and William M. Rodgers III, The State University of New Jersey and the National Poverty Center, University of Michigan

Download '2013-08-npc-working-paper.pdf'.


This paper asks four questions. Is there a difference in the motherhood wage gap (MWG) between native born and immigrant women? Do MWGs vary by the number of children within immigrant status groups? Further differentiating immigrants, do MWGs vary by country of origin? Fourth, do United Nations indicators for gender-related social conditions and policies from immigrant countries of origin explain the variation in immigrant MWGs?

To answer these questions, we use the 2000 U.S. Census Public Use microdata files to estimate MWGs for women ages 25 to 49 for both U.S. native born and first-generation immigrant women by their country of birth. We then regress the immigrant MWGs on UN indicators of origin country measures of gender development and empowerment.

We obtain MWGs between 4 to 14 percent with nonlinear increases by number of children. The MWG is smaller for immigrants as a group than U.S. native born women. We find the unanticipated result that coming from countries with higher Gender Development Indices and Gender Empower Measures is not associated with a smaller motherhood penalty in the U.S.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Immigration