`Daddy Penalty' at the Office Men from Dual-Career Families Get Fewer Raises, Studies Show

By Tamar Lewin 1994, New York Times News Service | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 17, 1994 | Go to article overview

`Daddy Penalty' at the Office Men from Dual-Career Families Get Fewer Raises, Studies Show


Tamar Lewin 1994, New York Times News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


WORKING mothers often worry about the "mommy track," fearing they will be consigned to lower-paid, less-prestigious jobs. But their husbands, at least those who are managers or professionals, may face a penalty, too.

According to several recent studies, men from traditional families, in which the wives stay home to care for their children, earn more and get higher raises than men from two-career families.

Just why a gap exists is a topic of considerable debate. Some experts attribute it to individual choices, with men who are the sole breadwinners working longer, producing more and pushing harder for raises and promotions. Others say that even if there is a gap, it may not be a matter of cause and effect. And still others suggest corporate prejudice is to blame.

"There's a definite daddy penalty, but it's only on the dads in dual-career families," said Linda Stroh of Loyola University of Chicago, the co-author of a study of 348 male managers at 20 Fortune 500 companies. "I think it's a new diversity issue for companies to think about - diversity of family type."

Stroh's study found that over five years the traditional fathers had received 20 percent higher raises than had the men with working wives.

Another study of 231 men who had received M.B.A. degrees in the late 1970s found that, all else being equal, those whose wives were at home with the children had earned 25 percent more than those whose wives held jobs of their own.

"The traditional family men were on a fast track, with the highest income, jobs at higher management levels and greater pay increases, on a percentage basis, over six years," said Frieda Reitman of Pace University, an author of that study.

"I don't know if you call it prejudice, but I do think the people in the top positions, who are mostly traditional men, are more comfortable with people who seem like themselves."

Both studies, presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in August, found that the men whose wives were at home had worked an average of two extra hours a week.

But even after controlling for the effects of the number of hours they worked, their experience, field of employment and interruptions to their career, Reitman's study found that men who were the sole breadwinners in their families earned an average of $121,630 a year, compared with $97,490 for those with wives who worked.

Earlier research, including a 1982 study based on a nationally representative sample of 5,000 adult men in all types of careers, and a 1992 study using data from a large multinational corporation, found the same phenomenon.

"Everyone knows it's true," said Jeffrey Pfeffer, an author of the 1982 study who teaches organizational behavior at Stanford University. "It makes sense. It's two people working on one career. It's the argument divorce lawyers use, that the wife at home was responsible for part of the husband's income."

While no one can cite studies to the contrary, some human resources experts were skeptical of the pay gap.

"I'm cynical about these results, because there could be lots of intervening variables," said John Moses, a human resources researcher at Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm based in Chicago. "And correlation doesn't mean causation, so even if having a spouse at home may be correlated with a higher income, that doesn't mean that asking your spouse to stay home will make your pay go up."

The gap in pay between the two groups, however well-documented in academic circles, remains a sensitive topic among corporate officials. Of nearly two dozen corporate spokesmen who were interviewed, none would discuss the question. …

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