Who's your daddy?

The bitter, shrill, and probably very ugly feminist Neil H. Buchanan at Feminist Law Profs has some interesting data on sex discrimination among lawyers’ salaries, and his analysis also accounts for the parenthood status of the lawyers.  Long story short:  men with children make more money than everyone else, and women with children make less money than everyone else.  Child-free men still make more than child-free women:

My tentative results confirm the “daddy bonus” that others’ have found in other studies, with the range of estimates suggesting a 15-20% salary advantage for fathers. Unlike previous studies, however, I also find a strong suggestion that women with children endure a “mommy penalty,” earning perhaps 10-15% less than the childless (and thus 25-35% less than fathers). I also find some weaker statistical support for the hypothesis that childless women earn less than childless men, with my estimates suggesting an 8-9% difference disfavoring women.

Those of you who are social scientists may want to gaze in admiration at all of the wonky goodness in his study.  Me, I’m a bottom-line kind of gal, and that bottom line speaks volumes.  Buchanan proposes three possibilities for why men with children are rewarded so lavishly:

[T]hree possibilities: fathers feel the need to work harder to bring home more bread for the family, men wait to become fathers until their salaries are high enough to support a growing family, and (my cynical favorite) fathers shirk childcare responsibilities by hiding in the office and incidentally raising their salaries.

Maybe–but let’s focus on the disadvantages to women, who lose no matter what they choose to do with their uteri.  Clearly, women who don’t have children are punished at work, because what the hell are they doing in contract law when they should be home reproducing, and women with children are punished because what the hell are they doing in the D.A.’s office when they should be home with their children?  Conversely, men who reproduce are doing exactly what the cultural script of “compulsory heterosexuality” demands:  they’ve spawned, and they’re busy providing for their children with their hard work.  Men without children are a little more suspect, perhaps because of fear and ressentiment of the gays, but not nearly as suspect as women who expect to be paid for their work.  What’s wrong with these broads–don’t they know that their families and society at large are entitled to their uncompensated labor? 

That’s what makes the work go ’round, kiddies:  women’s volunteer or grossly undercompensated labor.  Seriously, Neil–thanks for the crunchy, data-filled goodness.  Next time, can you serve that up with a mason-jar sized Pisco Sour?

0 thoughts on “Who's your daddy?

  1. I may be right out to lunch because I’m not great with empirical studies and data, but I wonder if the study looked at how many hours female lawyers with young children work as compared to male lawyers with children. In Canada, women have changed the practice of family medicine. When they have young children, they work fewer hours than their male counterparts, presumably because they must provide childcare, or may “choose” to do so, whereas men are much less likely to curtail working hours when they have young children. But many more men are reducing their work hours in the field of family medicine as well. It’s just that the reasons they give have more to do with self-care issues than with childcare. Since lawyers earn according to billable hours, it’s for sure gonna make a difference if they’re not working as many as men. And they’re much less likely to become partners in law firms, which I think is the case. When they don’t become partners at the “right” moment in their careers, they often don’t become partners later, when they’re working longer, thus damaging their long-term money making potential.


  2. Havng recently taught Francis Bacon’s essay “Of Marriage and Single Life,” (1625), I’ll simply quote and let readers decide if times have changed or not: “He that hath wife and child hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of the greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men, which both in affection and means have married the public.” On the other hand, Bacon says, “unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants, but not always best subjects, for they are light to run away, and almost all fugitives are of that condition.” (Quoted from everybody’s old friend, the Norton Anthology of English Literature, vol. 1, p. 1553–if you want the full MLA citation, please ask). Maybe we should (or already do) take such notions into account when fixing salaries?


  3. hysperia, every study I’ve ever seen demonstrates that sex is clearly a powerful predictor of salary apart from all other variables, and inevitably when controlling for all other factors, they show that on average men earn more than women. Note that there’s still a difference between child-free men and child-free women, with the men coming out on top (although these men don’t earn as much as the daddies.)

    Tom, I think that Bacon’s analysis is wise, although I will note that in this Protestant-majority country, there are few (if any) great leaders of note who aren’t married men with children. Marriage and children help establish men as “not gay” and culturally normative–although I will grant you that class plays a huge role in this. Among poor men, having a wife and children can certainly be “impediments,” whereas the unpaid volunteer labor that the wives of middle-class and elite men contribute to their families powerfully enables their husbands’ careers and fortunes. But this mindless insistence on “compulsory heterosexuality” that comes out of the Reformation, with its aggressive assault on monastic life and celibacy, has stacked the deck against men who are not-married and not-fathers, not to mention the chronic and cross-cultural penalization of women who dare to work for pay.

    Some of Bacon’s comments remind me of what Engels said about family, and how it prevents men from joining together to effect the socialist revolution? (That is, women and children drag a man down with cares…)


  4. Hi Historiann. Yes, it’s too true that all the studies show that women are the financial losers as compared to men and that is certainly true of the studies I’ve been looking at re: family medicine, i.e. single women practitioners earn less than single men. In Canada, that seems, at first, hard to account for because the amount a doctor can charge for various types of service is set in stone by the health care system. One explanation is that women spend more time with their patients than men but can only charge the set amount for the service. Women practitioners also have higher patient satisfaction rates and their patients are less ill as a result of getting more time. Women practitioners are also more inclined to do counselling with their patients and they don’t get paid for all of that – but again, family practice patients are more and more likely to have complex problems and there’s some suggestion that they are more likely to be taken care of appropriately by women. I just wondered if there could be some factors like this at play in the law biz, as that’s certainly those are things that kept my income low when I was in practice.


  5. Interesting information from family practice in Canada–there may be similar things going on in law, but I don’t know the particulars about Buchanan’s data. But of course, sex bias is still evident in the so-called “choices” these GP docs make: do women doctors who are impersonal and rushed stay in business? Or is the cultural expectation that they be mothers to their patients as well as physicians the thing that drives this difference between male and female GPs?


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