Among full-time, year-round workers, mothers are typically paid 74 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. This means the wage gap typically robs mothers working full time, year-round of $1,500 a month or $18,000 a year. When part-time and part-year workers are included, mothers are typically paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. When we compare women of color working full time, year-round with white, non-Hispanic fathers, the wage gap is even larger for Black women, Latinas, and Native women.
One reason for the maternal wage gap is occupational segregation;4 mothers are overrepresented in low-paid jobs. But when we compare mothers and fathers working in the same occupation, we still see racist and sexist wage gaps. Indeed, the wage gap persists and, in some cases, widens in the most common occupations for mothers.
The wage gap costs mothers working full time, year-round $18,000 annually, and many mothers of color lose even more.
The loss of 26 cents on the dollar typically costs mothers working full time, year-round about $18,000 a year. An extra $18,000 could have paid for nine months of rent,5 five months of groceries,6 and three months of child care.
Racial inequities compound the maternal wage gap for many mothers of color. For example, Latina mothers working full time, year-round are paid just 51 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers. Native mothers and Black mothers working full time, year-round are paid only 49 cents and 53 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers. Many mothers of color working full time, year-round therefore lose tens of thousands of dollars to the wage gap each year, with Native mothers typically losing $38,000, Latina mothers typically losing $37,000, and Black mothers typically losing $35,000 annually compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers. These larger annual losses are even more devastating for mothers of color who experienced the brunt of unemployment in 2022 and who, because of the wage gap, had less savings to sustain them until they were employed again. For example, in 2022, the unemployment rate for Black mothers (6.3%) was nearly twice the rate for all mothers (3.4%).
Mothers experience a wage gap compared to fathers at every education level, even when they have earned a graduate degree.
Educational attainment is considered one of the main paths towards economic stability—and nearly half of employed mothers (45.8%) have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to just over two in five employed fathers (40.6%). But despite mothers’ educational gains, they are still typically paid less than fathers with less educational attainment.
Mothers working full time, year-round who have a high school diploma are typically paid just 72 cents for every dollar paid to fathers with the same diploma.
Mothers working full time, year-round with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid $61,000, which is less than what fathers working full time, year-round with an associate’s degree are typically paid ($62,000).
Mothers working full time, year-round ($75,000) typically have to earn a master’s degree to make more than fathers with just an associate’s degree ($62,000).
For some mothers, as they gain educational attainment, the wage gap not only persists, but widens. Mothers with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid just 66 cents for every dollar paid to fathers with a bachelor’s degree—an annual loss of $31,000. Among master’s degree holders, mothers are typically paid 68 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Mothers with a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree face a wider wage gap when compared to mothers without a high school diploma.
When mothers and fathers working part time and part year are included, the wage gap is even larger.
Nearly one in four part-time workers (23.9%) have children under 18 years old and over eight in ten of these parents working part time are women (80.4%). When part-time and part-year workers are included, the wage gap gets even wider. When comparing all mothers who worked in 2021 with all fathers who worked, regardless of how many hours or weeks they worked, mothers were typically paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, and the gaps were even wider for many mothers of color when compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers.
Mothers face a wage gap in each of the ten occupations where they were most likely to work, many of which are low-paid.
Mothers and fathers tend to do different jobs, for a variety of reasons, including sexism and racism, and mothers taking on the lion’s share of family caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, mothers experience pay inequity within the jobs they commonly hold even compared to fathers in the same jobs.
Over two in five mothers (40.2%) are employed in one of ten occupations; in all ten of the occupations, mothers working full time, year-round are paid less than fathers working full time, year-round.
Mothers working full time, year-round as cashiers and retail salespeople (the sixth most common occupation for mothers) make just 56 cents for every dollar a full-time, year-round father makes.
For mothers, the highest paying occupations among the ten most common were (1) accountants, auditors, and financial managers and (2) registered nurses and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses—but mothers working full time, year-round in these roles are still paid less than their counterparts who are fathers working full time, year-round in these roles.
Among the ten most common occupations, the wage gap is smallest for mothers working full time, year-round as preschool and kindergarten teachers and child care workers. But these are low-paid jobs and so greater pay equity is not enough to achieve economic security.
Mothers need action that closes the wage gap.
As mothers continue to recover from the massive job losses brought on by the pandemic, they are also confronted with an ongoing care crisis, increasing restrictions on access to abortion, and other forms of reproductive health restrictions , occupational segregation, and persistent pay inequity. The racist and sexist wage gap continues to rob mothers—especially mothers of color—of tens of thousands of dollars a year, money that could have been used to build economic security. We need public investments and public policies that allow mothers to succeed and thrive.