The career cost of family

Type Report
Title The career cost of family
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
This paper concerns the career costs of family and how these costs have changed in occupations at the upper end of
the education and income spectrums. Career costs of family include penalties to labor supply behavior that is more
compatible with having a family, such as job interruptions, short hours, and part-time work. Self-employment, when it
involves owning a practice, often requires more hours of work because of classic agency problems and is less conducive
to family. But when self-employment does not entail capital ownership it often enables women to set their own hours
and enjoy greater workplace flexibility.
We study the pecuniary penalties for these family-related amenities, how women have responded to them, and how
the penalties have changed over time. The career costs of family vary greatly across the high-end careers we study.
More important, perhaps, is that the penalties to family-conducive behaviors have largely decreased over time. We
conclude that many professions at the high end (e.g., pharmacy, optometry, some medical specialties, veterinary
medicine) have experienced an increase in workplace flexibility driven often by exogenous changes but also
endogenously because of increased numbers of women. Some sectors, notably in the corporate and financial areas,
have lagged.

Related studies