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Motherhood and labor market penalty: a study on Indian labor market


  • Sarkhel, Sukanya
  • Mukherjee, Anirban


Labor market penalty associated with motherhood (in short, motherhood penalty) is an important issue related to gender equality in the society. Our paper is an attempt to empirically examine the extent of motherhood penalty in the context of Indian labor market. We use a nationally representative longitudinal survey data to address this question. We find negative relationship between motherhood and labor market outcomes for women. Besides using conventional measures of motherhood such as number of children, we also devise a new measure of motherhood relevant for our research question. The survey asked the respondents about their desired number of children. We deduct the desired number of children from the actual number of children to come up with a new measure of motherhood that we call extra children. We reckon that often women’s decision to join specific occupations or labor markets in general often internalize their desired number of children; the number they originally planned for. Hence, it is the number of children above the desired number which leads to stronger negative outcomes in the labor market. We find that the extra children variable has a stronger negative impact on women’s labor market outcomes than the conventional measures. We also examine how the extent of motherhood penalty varies across different cultural values pertaining to different family settings, regions and workplaces. We find, depending on different cultures prevailing in the places of residence or workplace, motherhood penalty gets either mitigated or exacerbated. Our results remain robust to alternative measures of motherhood.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarkhel, Sukanya & Mukherjee, Anirban, 2020. "Motherhood and labor market penalty: a study on Indian labor market," GLO Discussion Paper Series 673, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:673

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
    2. Das,Maitreyi B & Zumbyte,Ieva, 2017. "The motherhood penalty and female employment in urban India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8004, The World Bank.
    3. Shelly Lundberg & Elaina Rose, 2002. "The Effects Of Sons And Daughters On Men'S Labor Supply And Wages," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 251-268, May.
    4. Claudia Goldin, 2014. "A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1091-1119, April.
    5. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Jean Kimmel, 2005. "“The Motherhood Wage Gap for Women in the United States: The Importance of College and Fertility Delay”," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 17-48, September.
    6. Bedi, Arjun S. & Majilla, Tanmoy & Rieger, Matthias, 2018. "Gender Norms and the Motherhood Penalty: Experimental Evidence from India," IZA Discussion Papers 11360, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Rosa Abraham & Rahul Lahoti & Hema Swaminathan, 2021. "Childbirth and women's labour market transitions in India," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2021-128, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Rosa Abraham & Rahul Lahoti & Hema Swaminathan, 2021. "Childbirth and women's labour market transitions in India (revised)," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2021-149, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    More about this item


    India; Gender equality; Motherhood; Labor market penalty;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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