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Longer Time to Find New Job, Less Pay for Moms Laid Off During Recession

DENVER, August 17, 2012 — In a 2010 survey of laid-off workers across the United States, married moms spent more time between jobs and were overall less likely to find new jobs compared with married dads. Once re-employed, married moms experienced a decrease in earnings of $175 more per week compared with married dads.

The results suggest that the recent recession, dubbed the “man-cession” or “he-cession” because more men than women lost jobs, could also be viewed as a “mom-cession” as laid-off married moms had the hardest time finding new jobs.

“These findings hold true across different backgrounds, such as occupation, earnings, and work history,” said study co-author Brian Serafini, a University of Washington sociology graduate student. “This implies that laid-off moms aren’t just taking part-time jobs or seeing being laid off as a way to opt out of the workforce and embrace motherhood instead.”

Serafini and co-author Michelle Maroto, who will present their findings at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, said that their study supports the notions of a “motherhood penalty” and a “daddy bonus” in the workplace.

“Our study provides evidence of labor market discrimination against women whose family decisions may signal to employers a lack of commitment to the workplace,” said Maroto, formerly a University of Washington sociology graduate student and now an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alberta.

The researchers examined a national sample of displaced workers across occupations and industries who were laid off due to insufficient work, a plant or company closing, or their shift or job being eliminated. The U.S. Census Bureau collects the data as part of the monthly household questionnaire, the Current Population Survey. Maroto and Serafini examined data from the survey’s Displaced Workers Supplement distributed in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010.        

The 2010 survey, for instance, included nearly 4,400 displaced workers—men and women—who took on average 17 weeks to find another job. But, separating the data by marital and parental status revealed that married moms spent more time between jobs than married dads.

Also, married men consistently fared better than unmarried men, finding jobs sooner across the survey years. “This is consistent with the male breadwinner stereotype in that employers favor male heads of households when they are supporting children,” Serafini said.

Upon re-employment, married moms in the 2010 survey had a $175 greater decrease in weekly earnings compared with their male counterparts, which for full-time, year-round employment could be decreases of about $9,100 more per year for married moms compared with married dads.

“Even when we account for education level and previous work and earnings experience, we find that moms take longer to find new jobs and they earn less after being laid off,” Serafini said.

The study also revealed a newer trend in which single, childless women seemed to fare better when seeking re-employment than single, childless men. But, when these women found new jobs, their change in earnings was similar to that of single men without kids.

“These results help explain some of the apparent losses for certain men during the recent recession, by revealing that the he-cession story seems to apply more to single, childless men when compared to single, childless women,” Maroto said.

The researchers caution that the data apply only to re-entering the workforce, and do not offer predictions on who is most likely to be laid off.

A grant from the Employment & Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor funded the study.

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.

The paper, “Recession, Man-cession, or Mom-cession? Gender Inequality in Reemployment Outcomes Disaggregated by Marital and Parental Status,” will be presented on Monday, Aug. 20, at 10:30 a.m. MDT in Denver, Colorado, at the American Sociological Association’s 107th Annual Meeting.

To obtain a copy of the paper; for more information on other ASA presentations; or for assistance reaching the study’s author(s), members of the media can contact Daniel Fowler, ASA’s Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org. During the Annual Meeting (Aug. 17-20), ASA’s Public Information Office staff can be reached in the press room, located in Mezzanine A of the Colorado Convention Center, at (303) 228-8350 or (914) 450-4557 (cell).

For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Molly McElroy, University of Washington News and Information, at (206) 543-2580 or mollywmc@uw.edu.

Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer reviewed journals.