A Reconsideration of the Fatherhood Premium
Past research that asserts a fatherhood wage premium often ignores the heterogeneity of fathering contexts. I expect fatherhood to produce wage gains for men if it prompts them to alter their behavior in ways that increase labor-market productivity. Identity theory predicts a larger productivity-based fatherhood premium when ties of biology, coresidence with the child, and marriage to the child’s mother reinforce one another, making fatherhood, and the role of financial provider in particular, salient, high in commitment, and clear. Employer discrimination against fathers in less normative family structures may also contribute to variation in the fatherhood premium. Using fixed-effects models and data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), I find that married, residential, biological fatherhood is associated with wage gains of about 4 percent, but unmarried residential fathers, nonresidential fathers, and stepfathers do not receive a fatherhood premium. Married residential fathers also receive no statistically significant wage premium when their wives work full-time. About 15 percent of the wage premium for married residential fathers can be explained by changes in human capital and job traits.