A woman's chance for equal pay plummets when she has a kid — and never recovers, says the newest Harvard economist to win the Nobel Prize

 Research conducted by Claudia Goldin, recently awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, sheds light on the primary reason why women tend to earn less than men in the same field, despite having similar education levels. Goldin's extensive work elaborated in her publication titled "Why Women Won," delves into key moments in the history of women's rights. The Harvard professor stressed the significance of her research being recognized, emphasizing its focus on women's economic standing and gender-related issues that often go unaddressed.

One crucial aspect of Goldin's research is the examination of earnings gaps in affluent countries, where women now outperform men in education and work comparable jobs. However, the narrative changes when it comes to the impact of motherhood on women's career trajectories. Collaborating with Lawrence Katz and Marianne Bertrand, Goldin established that wage gaps between men and women in similar fields and with similar experience are initially minimal. In certain metropolitan areas, younger generations of women are even surpassing their male counterparts in terms of earnings.

However, this dynamic shifts significantly as outlined by Goldin's extensive analysis spanning 16 years, focusing on female MBA graduates who became mothers. The research reveals that these women experience a decline in job experience, face more career interruptions, and witness a decrease in earnings, a phenomenon not observed among male MBA graduates. The Nobel Committee aptly describes this as the "motherhood penalty," whereby women's hours and income decrease when they have children. On the other hand, men tend to work longer hours and earn more after becoming fathers, benefiting from a "fatherhood wage premium" as highlighted by Pew Research. This creates a persistent gender pay gap, particularly for women aged 35 to 44, a prime period for parenting.

Even as women's children grow older, the research conducted by Goldin, Sari Pekkala Kerr, and Claudia Olivetti demonstrates that the "motherhood penalty" continues to impact women's careers. It is only when their children reach adulthood that women start to regain some ground by working more hours, though they still do not achieve parity with their male counterparts. Kerr explains that by the time college-educated women reach their mid-fifties, the substantial advancements made by men and fathers in the labor market make it impossible for women to bridge the gap, regardless of subsequent efforts.

The recognition of Goldin's contributions to the Nobel Prize not only validates her work but also underscores the importance of the pay gap question in economics. It acknowledges the extensive research being conducted by Goldin, Kerr, and numerous other economists who are dedicated to understanding this issue. Goldin believes that this recognition will shed more light on the significance of the pay gap and inspire further research in the field.  

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