Francesca Bastagli and Kitty Stewart
Published 1 December 2011
This paper uses panel data from the British Families and Children Study to analyse the employment patterns of women with children and the ways in which part-time work and interruptions in paid employment influence the wages of working mothers. It pays particular attention to how the relationship between employment trajectory and wage progression compares for higher-skilled and lower-skilled mothers and for mothers of younger and older children. We find that mothers follow a wide variety of employment pathways, the majority working part-time, moving between full-time and part-time employment or moving in and out of work as they combine motherhood with paid employment. In support of results from existing research on the “part-time” wage penalty and the “motherhood gap”, we find that there are wage penalties associated with unstable work trajectories. Our analysis also shows that such wage penalties are significantly smaller for lower-skilled than higher-skilled women and are experienced by mothers of children of all ages, although the impact appears larger for mothers of younger children. In the final sections, the paper discusses the policy implications that arise from these findings with reference to recent debates on maternal employment, wage progression and poverty reduction.