Domestic Work and the Wage Penalty for Motherhood in West Germany


  • Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, A5, 6, D-68131 Mannheim, Germany.

Mannheim Centre for European Social Research and Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences, University of Mannheim, A5, 6, D-68131 Mannheim, Germany (


Previous research suggests that household tasks prohibit women from unfolding their full earning potential by depleting their work effort and limiting their time flexibility. The present study investigated whether this relationship can explain the wage gap between mothers and nonmothers in West Germany. The empirical analysis applied fixed-effects models and used self-reported information on time use and earnings as well as monthly family and work histories from the German Socio-Economic Panel (1985–2007, N = 1,810; Wagner, Frick, & Schupp, 2007). The findings revealed that variation in reported time spent on child care and housework on a typical weekday explains part of the motherhood wage penalty, in particular for mothers of very young children. Furthermore, housework time incurred a significant wage penalty, but only for mothers. The authors concluded that policies designed to lighten women's domestic workload may aid mothers in following rewarding careers.