Father and childTobias Hase/DPA/Press Association Images

Men who have children earn almost a fifth more than their childless counterparts by the age of 40, according to a think-tank study.

The IPPR said the "fatherhood pay bonus" had increased over recent decades but that women who gave birth at an early age were tending to end up worse off than before.


Researchers compared the fortunes of men and women born in 1958 and 1970 as part of a project to assess the impact of feminism on working life in the UK.

They found that the younger cohort of mothers suffered less of an earnings differential than their own mothers' generation by the time they reached 40 - 11% down instead of 14%. There was also less of a gap between their pay and that of fathers the same age which dropped from 32% to 26% - the so-called "motherhood pay penalty". But the think-tank said it had been surprised to discover the extra earnings fatherhood appeared to help generate - 16% more for those born in 1958 and 19% for the 1970 generation.

Potential explanations were that the incentive of being breadwinner for a family pushed them to work harder, that employers rewarded their perceived increased loyalty or that men tend to wait until they have a decent wage to have children.

According to the research, the women born in 1970 who had children by the time they were 24 were likely to earn 20% less than those without children - a rise on the previous 17%. For those who gave birth later the gap shrank from 12% to 10%.

IPPR associate director Dalia Ben-Galim said: "Women have made lots of progress. Female employment soared in the 1980s, since the mid-1990s girls have been outperforming boys at school at university, and in the last decade the gender pay gap between men and women in their 20s has almost disappeared.

"But discussions about gender and pay are often divorced from the wider structural context that drives female disadvantage in work and wages, which is closely associated with their primary responsibility for care, particularly childcare. Our analysis of the earnings of women born in 1958 and 1970 suggests that the impact of having children on women's earning and employment prospects has, on average, improved slightly over time.

"Most of the mothers of children born in 1958 would have taken a long break from work after having children, and those in relatively good jobs experienced a fall in occupational status and earnings. Their daughters were more likely to return to work quicker, and to maintain occupational status after having children.

"Full-time working women born 12 years later, in 1970, are doing better but mothers are still penalised compared both to women without children and to men with children. But we were surprised to find a 'fatherhood pay bonus'. With dads in the UK tending to work long hours and many fathers still seeing themselves as breadwinners, they may be working longer to make up for their partners working fewer hours."

© 2012 Press Association