UBC Faculty Research and Publications

“Family-Friendly” Jobs and Motherhood Pay Penalties : The Impact of Flexible Work Arrangements Across the Educational Spectrum Fuller, Sylvia; Hirsh, C. Elizabeth


This article focuses on how flexible work arrangements affect motherhood wage penalties for differently situated women. While theories of work–life facilitation suggest that flexible work should ease motherhood penalties, the use of flexibility policies may also invite stigma and bias against mothers. Analyses using Canadian-linked workplace–employee data test these competing perspectives by examining how temporal and spatial flexibility moderate motherhood wage penalties and how this varies by women’s education. Results show that flexible work hours typically reduce mothers’ disadvantage, especially for the university educated, and that working from home also reduces wage gaps for most educational groups. The positive effect of flexibility operates chiefly by reducing barriers to mothers’ employment in higher waged establishments, although wage gaps within establishments are also diminished in some cases. While there is relatively little evidence of a flexibility stigma, the most educated do face stronger wage penalties within establishments when they substitute paid work from home for face time at the workplace as do the least educated when they bring additional unpaid work home. Overall, results are most consistent with the work–life facilitation model. However, variability in the pattern of effects underscores the importance of looking at the intersection of mothers’ education and workplace arrangements.

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