Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers!

Dear Commons Community,

In an op-ed article earlier this week.Claire Cain Miller, a reporter for The Upshot, reviewed some of the current research on the effects of working mothers on children.

“The mommy wars might seem like a relic of the 1990s, but 41 percent of adults say the increase in working mothers is bad for society, while just 22 percent say it is good, according to the Pew Research Center.

Yet evidence is mounting that having a working mother has some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes. That is not to say that children do not also benefit when their parents spend more time with them — they do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and research shows that children of working parents also accrue benefits…”

In one new study of adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on child care and housework.

Some of these effects were strong in the United States. Here, daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.”

“Part of this working mothers’ guilt has been, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be so much better off if I stay home,’ but what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work,” said Kathleen McGinn, a professor at Harvard Business School and an author of the study, which is part of the school’s new gender initiative, to be announced Monday, for researching and discussing gender issues.

“This is as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home,” she said.”

Not all agree with Professor McGinn. In the United States, it turns out that attitudes about working parents depend a lot on a family’s circumstances, like whether parents are happy with their child care and need the income, said Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at New York University. The question is not just how working affects children, but how to deal with challenges like long and unpredictable hours and a lack of child care.”



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