Fathers and the Flexibility Stigma


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Scott Coltrane, College of Arts & Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. Tel: (541) 346-3902 [e-mail: coltrane@uoregon.edu].


Women face an earnings penalty associated with motherhood but researchers have paid scant attention to how fatherhood might influence men's long-term earnings. Using multiple waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and employing ordinary least squares regression and fixed effects models we investigate what happens to men who modify their employment for family reasons. Previous research shows that men work longer hours and earn more after becoming fathers, but if men are unemployed or reduce work hours for family reasons, they could experience a “flexibility stigma” depressing earnings and limiting future career opportunities. We find strong support for the flexibility stigma hypothesis. Controlling for the effects of age, race, education, intelligence, occupation, job tenure, work hours, health limitations, marital status, and number of children, we find that men who ever quit work or are unemployed for family reasons earn significantly less than others in the future. Theoretical reasons for observed findings are discussed.