Why Do Women Lawyers Earn Less than Men? Parenthood and Gender in a Survey of Law School Graduates

53 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2008 Last revised: 16 Oct 2008

See all articles by Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan

George Washington University Law School

Date Written: October 2, 2008


Using a dataset of survey responses from University of Michigan Law School graduates from the classes of 1970 through 1996, I find that fathers tend to receive higher salaries than non-fathers (a "daddy bonus"). In addition, mothers earn less than non-mothers (a "mommy penalty"). There is also some statistical support for the inference that there is a penalty associated purely with gender (women earning less than men, independent of parenthood), another result that is unique to the literature.

Analyzing full- or part-time status as well as work hours also suggests a key difference between women and men. Those who take part-time status are almost entirely women who take on child-rearing duties, and they reduce their work hours by an average of approximately thirty percent. These statistical results are, however, significantly less reliable because of the very small numbers of respondents (male or female) who work less than full time.

Keywords: Gender, Salary Differences, Parenthood, Child Rearing, Law Careers

JEL Classification: J13, J16, J22, J31, J44, J71

Suggested Citation

Buchanan, Neil H., Why Do Women Lawyers Earn Less than Men? Parenthood and Gender in a Survey of Law School Graduates (October 2, 2008). GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 449; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 449. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1280464 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1280464

Neil H. Buchanan (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-3875 (Phone)

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