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Copyright (c) 2006 Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rutgers--The State University of New Jersey
Women's Rights Law Reporter

SYMPOSIUM: WORK/LIFE CONFLICT IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION: Keynote Address: Want Gender Equality? Die Childless at Thirty

Winter, 2006

27 Women's Rights L. Rep. 3


Joan C. Williams*


Our topic today is why women remain economically vulnerable. This vulnerability does not emerge, for most women, until after age thirty. In fact, young women without children now earn nearly as much as men - great news, if your goal is to die childless at thirty; bad news for the rest of us. The bulk of women will face economic vulnerability as they hit both the glass ceiling and - for the 82% of women who become mothers 1 - the maternal wall.

The glass ceiling was recognized long ago; the maternal wall has been noted and documented only recently. New work by economists documents the central role of motherhood in creating economic vulnerability for women. The "family gap" between the wages of mothers and others accounts for an increasing proportion of the "wage gap" between men and women. 2 The growing literature on the "motherhood penalty" highlights the need for economists to supplement the study of sex - comparing wages of men and women - with the study of gender - comparing the wages of mothers and others. An important study by Michelle Budig and Paula England documents that having a second child has a much larger incremental effect than having a first. 3

The studies on the motherhood penalty highlight the limitations of our traditional economic measure of gender equality, the "wage gap," which compares the wages of full-time men with those of full-time women. The wage gap, which now stands at 77%, ...
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