Housework and Familial Responsibilities

Woman bearing the burden of all household tasks while simultaneouly working and raising a child.

Finally, the most acknowledged reason behind why a wage gap exists in STEM is due to familial responsibilities and housework. Many research articles and academic sources point to women starting families and having children as being the main reason behind why there is a wage gap within STEM.

The American Association of Medical Colleges attributes women prioritizing flexible schedules over higher pay to accommodate for having families, while men on average do not, as a key factor which explains why a wage gap exists. In a study involving 776 hospitalists, women ranked control of personal time above pay while men ranked pay as their number two priority after workload. [1] Additionally, another study from JAMA Internal Medicine, found that, on average, women who have children typically work eleven hours less per week than women who do not have children. [2] This highlights how women with families usually spend less time at work, and therefore have less experience than their male counterparts which leads to a pay gap.

In addition, research has been conducted to see if varying housework and family responsibilities plays a role in the wage gap in STEM. To do this, a research article compared single women to married heterosexual women to married homosexual women. [3] The study finds that heterosexual women bear the burden of housework and household tasks and therefore tend to accept lower paying jobs in order to accommodate their family responsibilities while those in homosexual relationships typically divide those tasks and are able to take on higher paying jobs. [4] The study suggested that the unequal division of labor within a household is more responsible for the gap than gender discrimination.

Another research article which discussed the pay gap between men and women in STEM careers in Japan looked at three main reasons as to why a wage gap might be occurring. One of those three reasons included preferences in family formation. Emphasis was placed on how child rearing might be a significant cause of the gender gap, “Becker (1985) theorizes that women put less effort into paid work due to their comparative advantage in domestic work.  On the other hand, men put more effort into paid work and thus earn more than women, due to their comparative advantage in market work.” [5] Because women spend more time at home and place their children and housework as their priority, they end up spending less time at work and have fewer years of experience than men do. This difference in experience results in a pay gap. 

Lastly, when looking at childbearing and child raising, they seem to take up a significant portion of a mother’s time at home. Women typically experience more interruptions in their careers due to having and raising children as well as because of their housework. These interruptions in their careers lead to fewer years of training, experience, and fewer earnings than their male counterparts who engage in fewer interruptions. [6] According to a study conducted on pharmacists, male pharmacists on average had earnings which exceeded female pharmacists’ earnings by 6%. The presence of children in a household usually exerts a negative impact on women’s’ earnings and labor supply while men are able to take on more hours and earnings. [7]


[1] Association of American Medical Colleges. “Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine.” Accessed November 4, 2021.

[2] Association of American Medical Colleges. Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine.

[3] Wang, Jing and Morley Gunderson. "Can Pay Gaps between Gay Men and Lesbians Shed Light on male–female Pay Gaps?" International Journal of Manpower 40, no. 2 (2019): 178-189. doi:

[4] Wang, Can Pay Gaps between Gay Men and Lesbians Shed Light on male–female Pay Gaps?

[5] Takahashi, Ana Maria, Shingo Takahashi, and Thomas N. Maloney. “Gender Gaps in STEM in Japanese Academia: The Impact of Research Productivity, Outside Offers, and Home Life on Pay.” The Social Science Journal 55, no. 3 (September 1, 2018): 245–72.

[6]  Independent. “Burden of Household Chores Still Falls to Women, CSO Survey Reveals.” Accessed December 4, 2021. 5.

[7] Carvajal, Manuel J, Graciela M Armayor, and Lisa Deziel. “Pharmacists’ Earnings Determinants: Differences by Ethnic Group.” Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research 4, no. 1 (March 1, 2013): 19–27.

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