Why Women Still Can't Have It All In The U.S.

New study identifies the one ingredient necessary to "having it all."

The decision to have both a child and a career is often presented as a zero sum game for women, one where it's extremely difficult to excel in one area without sacrificing the other.

A new NBER paper from researchers at Cornell and Denmark makes a strong case that having a mother that works actually benefits a child's academic performance if they live somewhere that actively supports them.

They took a look a massive dataset of academic outcomes for children in Denmark and found that the child of a woman who worked between 10-19 hours over the first four years of their child's life will have a GPA that's 2.6% higher, on average, than someone whose mother didn't work at all.

The effects are larger if you look at employment over 15 years of a child's life. Changes in income don't have much of an influence, which points to employment having a positive effect separate from any extra money. The country has very generous leave policies, four weeks paid before delivery, 14 weeks afterwards, and 10 weeks additional that can be shared

Early child care is extremely generous. Denmark spends 1.2% of its GDP on early childhood care and education versus 0.4% in the U.S. Early child care and education is well funded, and well staffed, and many families take advantage. Generally, people work fewer hours as well.

Basically, it's an environment where if a women chooses to work, the tradeoffs are much lower. Working doesn't mean leaving a child alone for as long when they're just weeks old, sacrificing education, or leaving them in an inferior environment while their parents are working.

With that kind of support, the researchers found, the children of working mothers grow up to do better. All things equal, the mother will spend less time with her child. But other effects, like the fact that the child might have a hard working role model to look up to, appear to outweigh that.

Related Stories From Business Insider:
How Leaders Approach Impossible Problems
Silicon Valley's Obsession With Youth Is Costing Talent and Innovation
You May Be Pitting Workers Against Each Other

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I am a stay at home mom. I may not work a traditional job, but I am a very hardworking person. The last sentence of the article is offensive to all stay at home parents.

August 31 2013 at 8:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jenny's comment

Working mothers do most of what you do plus work away from home. I was a stay at home mom for years, now that I'm a working mother, sorry, there is no comparison. It is much harder. Not that I was any less hardworking when I stayed home but it really is more difficult to parent and keep up with the housework when time is squeezed in half.

August 31 2013 at 12:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Now that I am retired male, I am able to look back on the last forty years from a position that is different from when I was working. I regret not spending more time with my children. During this time, I worked 40+ hours a week and was and officer in the Army reserves. Both jobs were necessary. One paid a good portion of the bills and the other was a matter of citizenship. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Maybe I can make it up to my children by being a good grandfather. The point of my comment is that NO ONE CAN HAVE IT ALL. Grow up and do your best.

August 30 2013 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok, man rant - First why does 'having it all' mean job and family? Might not a woman consider herself to 'have it all' if she choses to stay at home? Who is placing this 'have it all' definition on everyone?
Secondly -and I am a m-a-n so for some of you this might be u-g-l-y. I don't think you 'guys' know what you want. It is like you have ski's on and you can not keep them together. You say you do not need a man but want a man. You say you can do everything a man can but then want to pick and choose what things you want to do. You want a job but you want a family, you have a family but you want some one else to raise them.You find a guy you like and just hang out in close proximity doing and saying nothing because it is the man's job ask you out. Well miss educated, sophisticated, can do all a man can do, corporate I am woman hear me roar career girl, get doing and being. Don't pick and choose leaving the other half to try and figure out what it is you do not want to do and be and realize we are supposed to step in and fill the gap.
Sorry, felt I needed to say that...again.
Third - You may begin to feel you have at least more of it all if you took the time to enjoy what you have. I just read this article and if you have not read it I hope you do. As the lady said, "I was always in a hurry. Hurrying. Always. For what?" http://www.purpleclover.com/health/875-what-dying-want-us-know-about-living/?icid=maing-grid77Cdl326pLid%3D366577
Forth - and I mean this in the best of ways - you're a weird lot, but I love you 'guys'.

August 30 2013 at 6:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to decopperhead's comment

DECOPPERHEAD, and don't forget many women also want the choice to kill their unborn child if they decide they don't want it, but if a drunk drivers hits her body and kills the unborn baby WHILE she is on her WAY to terminate the pregnancy, then that driver goes to jail for manslaughter. Many women , feminitsts, do want it all, and they make me sick. They want equality WHEN IT IS CONVENIENT, and then when they have something they decide they want a man to do for her, like change her oil or put a bookshelf together then they start in on the "help poor little old mmmeee". Sure some women do their own oil change and bookshelves, but I know plenty that can put on that sweet little act to get a man to come do stuff she "can't" or don't want to do. Killing unborn babies in the womb is NOT, I repeat NOT what the original Feminists had in mind. The original feminists are probably turning cartwheels in their graves.

August 30 2013 at 8:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SUNFLOWERgirl's comment

I don't think all women are that way. But, being a young woman, I do feel significant pressure to do everything at the same moment. However, I have felt the most happy and satisfied when I follow my own desire and life philosophy (which usually contradicts modern feminist ideals...). Yes, I dropped out of college to have a family but I was able to give my children a gift no nanny or childcare center could give: the love of a mother, always there for my young children, and the gift of confidence that no matter what happens there will at least be one person who will cherish them. What career could I have that would equal that? Now that my kids are in school full time I have re-enrolled in college and maybe someday I'll have a "career". I have the rest of my life to make money and work and work and work... but at least I'll never regret missing those short first years of my children's lives.

August 31 2013 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

It's nice to have a good family member helping out while you are working. It can be exhausting.

August 30 2013 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Foxy Fox

You can have most of it if you do not mind impairing your child's future.

August 30 2013 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Working mothers WILL NEVER have it all. If a woman chooses to work when she really doesn't have to? I lose respect for women like that. If you choose to work and have kids, you will NOT have the special TIME with your kids that they deserve. If she were to be a stay at home mother, the wonder and beauty of the bond is priceless. And yes, working mothers ARE indeed missing out on this. And if you wanna say, "It's worth it because I still have a life....I still have worth", then I say you are fooling yourself because you do not know nor may not ever understand what you are missing. The child being little only happens ONCE and those are times you just do not wanna miss. On the other hand, there are women who HAVE work, and I know you have no other choice.

August 30 2013 at 2:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SUNFLOWERgirl's comment

I think you are being dramatic here. Has anyone ever asked the children of working mothers? Frankly, I wish my mother had worked at least when I was in school. Now that I'm working, I feel she can't relate to me and how busy I am. It would have been nice to have a role model. Once your kids are in school there is really no need to stay home any longer and it is good for kids to see their mothers working. I went back as soon as my sons hit 1st grade and if I could do it over again, I would have gone back a few years sooner. Love them, but there is no need.

August 31 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I will never understand this need of dumping children off. No ladies, you can't have it all nor should you want to. Either you have children and raise them or you work and risk screwing up your kids.

August 30 2013 at 12:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mocs's comment

Did the "lady" have the kid by herself? Why does the mother have to give up her job, the father can raise them just as well. Go back to the 1950'a where you belong.

August 30 2013 at 1:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I was a stay-at-home Mom for ten years. It was the best time of my life. I took the kids to school, picked them up every day and took them to all of their activities...girl scouts, dance lessons, boy scouts, basketball, karate, swim classes, doctors' appointments, etc., etc. Then my marriage fell apart because my husband allowed his mother to interfere. I put up with that for years until I couldn't take it anymore. My children and I were all suffering because of it, so I ended it. He begged me not to do it, but I knew that nothing would change so I stuck with it. It was a very ugly divorce to say the least.

The bottom line is that it was very difficult to re-enter the work force. Even though my skills were really good, no one wanted to hire me because I had been a stay-at-home Mom for so long and had no recent work experience. That is when I realized that society was telling me that I was damned if I stayed home with my kids and was damned if I didn't.

I eventually did get a good-paying job. The company and the work environment was not good but somehow I survived and got through it because I didn't have any choice. My kids saw me go through all of that. Even though they didn't understand it at the time they do now.

August 30 2013 at 12:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mclkarim's comment
J's Damsel

You sound like a real martyr.

August 30 2013 at 5:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes, that is a real danger to staying home full time. I had the same, exact experience. Unfortunately, I still don't feel I caught up in terms of my current pay and work skills, 7 years after my divorce. The divorce rate is 42% in this country, women are taking a real risk. I always suggest taking a few years off when the kids are babies, then getting back in the workforce. The real key is to have a husband that will help out with chores and errands, then I think working while raising kids is possible. Kids are resilient and will not wither if a mom works. Honestly people on here are trying to justify their choice to stay home by making it sound as if working mothers are dumping their kids in the streets while they work. It's offensive.

August 31 2013 at 12:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a full-time working mother with a husband who stays at home to take care of our 2 daughters. He cooks, he cleans, he changes diapers. We both struggle with the usual difficulties of parenthood: toddler tantrums, fatigue, cash flow issues, etc, but at the end of the day, a parent staying at home allows us not only to raise our own children, but to spend more time with one another. My husband absolutely LOVED his profession, and we chose this route for ourselves because his industry was doing poorly at the time of my first pregnancy, and as I was able to make more money on my single income. He plans on returning to the workforce once both children have started preschool. There are times I am jealous that he gets to spend so much time with our children, and there are times he is jealous that I get to spend so much time with other adults, but neither of us resent these choices. They are our choices, as a married couple and a family unit, and we embrace them, despite the difficulties that ALL decisions can weigh. I do not feel there is any one "perfect" system. "Having it all" will always be impossible. Have you ever met a wealthy person who thought they had too much money? A retiree who thought they had too much time? A stay-at-home parent who never longed for work? A working parent who never longed for more time with his/her children? It is balance we are hoping to strike, and acceptance with what we have that will truly help us feel happy. After all, isn't that the ultimate "success"? Because what is the point of "having it all" if you are not happy with it all? Don't led greed bring you down! :)

August 30 2013 at 12:30 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

No man or woman can have it all! Life is a series of choices when you make a choice it closes the door on many other choices. This article is really talking about balance of family and work etc. People should try to balance what is good for their family and good for them, often that is NOT the same thing.

August 30 2013 at 12:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shelby's comment

Very well said!!

August 30 2013 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web