A new study, “Trends in Couples’ Work Patterns After Childbirth,” led by Cornell’s Kelly Musick, professor of policy analysis and management and professor of sociolgy by courtesy, has been awarded $1 million over a three years by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“Most women still have primary responsibility at home, and their partners maintain the status of primary earner, particularly after a child is born,” Musick said. “Our research addresses how couples’ negotiations over work and family have changed over time, and what the implications may be for inequalities in earnings within and across families.”
The research will examine within-family inequality, which increases following the birth of a child, when many women pull back at work. Evidence suggests that wives’ lower relative earnings leaves them disadvantaged in household decision-making and more vulnerable to economic hardship in case of divorce. Further, the disproportionate decline in wives’ employment following childbirth appears to have persistent effects on earnings many years later, contributing to the gender wage gap.
It also proposes to look at inequality across families. College-educated women are now more likely to get married and stay married than women with less education, and they are also more likely to marry other college graduates.