Children, Career, and Compromises: To what Extent does Offspring Affect Labour Force Participation and Career Opportunities of Women in Germany?
Germany faces a substantial challenge from demographic change in the forthcoming decades. While large cohorts reach retirement age, the working-age population shrinks. One option to curtail economic effects of this imbalance is to increase female labour force participation. The study uses data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) to analyze the impact of children on careers of women in East and West Germany, respectively in terms of participation and realized wages or occupational prestige. Results indicate strong regional differences, with East German mothers returning much faster to the labour market than their western peers. Participation rates – especially full-time employment – of the latter group remain permanently below levels of childless women. Careers of East German mothers are hampered by a higher risk of unemployment. The mother wage gap is relatively large among western mothers and remains so even after taking into account previous experience and unobserved heterogeneity. The study documents a negative and statistically significant relationship between children and occupational prestige only for West Germany. The observed career differences between mothers in both parts of the country may be rooted in a larger supply of institutionalized child-care arrangements in East Germany.