Harvard study: Working mothers good for girls + boys

A new Harvard study shows a link between working mothers and better economic outcomes for their daughters.

Harvard study: Working mothers good for girls + boys

Ah, the age-old question: Are working moms good for kids?


A 2015 Harvard study has infused this debate with more facts thanks to research by Harvard Business School professor Kathleen L. McGinn and colleagues.

McGinn, who specializes in the role of gender in the workplace, analyzed international studies of family life to quantify the economic and social impact of working mothers on their children.

Working mothers have a positive economic impact on their daughters—and an important social one on their sons, according to the report, which was published in The New York Times.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Daughters of working mothers earned 23% more than daughters of mothers who never worked for pay outside the home while their children were under 14.

2. Sons of working mothers pitched in more around the house: As adults, working women’s “sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on childcare and 25 more minutes on housework” than sons of women who never worked. McGinn attributes this to the modeling behavior in the families in which boys grow up.

3. Globally, the daughters of mothers who worked at some point during their children’s upbringing were more likely to be in supervisory roles at work.

4. McGinn notes that many mothers feel guilty about spending time at work away from children, but argues that “what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work.

5. The Harvard study did not differentiate between mothers who worked highly demanding 60-hour workweeks and those who worked fewer hours.

6. Previous studies have shown a link between a mother’s happiness and her children’s flourishing. Finding the right work-family balance for you and your family is a highly personal choice—and a vitally important one.

(Photo credit: Erwin Soo)

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