The pay gap between mothers and childless women is actually bigger than the pay gap between women and men.
Using fake resumes for two equally qualified candidates–one childless, one a mom—the researchers found that the mother was 100% less likely to be hired when she applied for a position. Mothers were consistently ranked as less competent and less committed than non-moms. “They were also offered $11,000 a year less pay, on average, than an equally qualified childless candidate,” Correll says in the author interview that accompanies the award.
And what about men? Fathers got higher ratings than non-dads.
Shocking News! Non-Mothers Outearn Mothers
Employers are more likely to hire non-mothers because they know they'll work more than mothers will. That's also why they're willing to pay them more. They know that Mom will be running out the door a few times a week at 4 or 5 PM to pick up little Johnny at soccer practice, and that non-Mom will be at the office until 7.
The researchers call that discrimination, but it's discrimination based, not on status but on known behavior. It doesn't make sense for an employer to pay a lower-producing employee the same as a higher-producing one. Is it possible that a mother could work as much as a childless woman? Sure, but it's vanishingly rare, and employers know that. It's also more likely that a mother will quit altogether to be a full-time mom and the employer's investment in her will be wasted.
But if all that's true, why do fathers make out better than non-fathers? Because employers know about their behavior too. They know that fathers usually aren't the primary caregivers, so when 5 PM rolls around, Dad'll be the one sitting there working as Mom dashes out the door to pick up Johnny. And they also know that, as between fathers and non-fathers, Dad is the more stable, committed one. He's the one with an extra mouth to feed, so he'll come to work every day and give it his all for his children.