The Within-Job Motherhood Wage Penalty in Norway, 1979–1996


  • Department of Sociology, 3151 Social Science Plaza, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, 92697-5100 (

  • Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1096, Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. Deceased June 3, 2009.

Department of Sociology, 410 Barrows Hall, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, 94720-1980 (


The motherhood wage penalty is a substantial obstacle to progress in gender equality at work. Using matched employer–employee data from Norway (1979–1996, N = 236,857 individuals, N = 1,027,462 individual-years), a country with public policies that promote combining family and career, we investigate (a) whether the penalty arises from differential pay by employers or from the sorting of employees on occupations and establishments and (b) changes in the penalties during a period with major changes in family policies. We find that (a) the penalty to motherhood was mostly due to sorting on occupations and occupation-establishment units (mothers and nonmothers working in the same occupation and establishment received similar pay), and (b) the wage penalties to motherhood declined substantially over the 18-year period.