Women With Unpredictable Schedules Face Lower Earnings Than Male Counterparts

May 07, 2024

Mother’s Day gives us a unique opportunity to honor the women who cherish our growth and may have sacrificed their career or leisure time to raise us. Historically, women’s poverty rates have been higher than men’s rates for nearly all races and ethnicities. This remains the case despite increased female participation in the labor force and a high frequency of black mothers’ employment, which also has increased considerably over the past few decades. Women still are more likely to live with low incomes relative to men nationwide, even with a poverty measure that accounts for all sources of government benefits and tax credits.

Raising children may further impact women workers’ long-term economic well-being, particularly for those working in low-wage jobs, in which last-minute cancelation or schedule instability is quite prevalent. A recent paper reveals that substantial earnings differences exist according to a worker’s race and gender, which could be a result of frequent changes in market hours worked, apart from occupation and industry effects.

Applying the same method, the following figure shows that even for ones living in the same state, working in similar industry or jobs and with similar socio-economic backgrounds, working mothers earn the lowest income when facing greater unpredictability in their in-job schedules.

For example, a working mother would see $760 weekly earnings when experiencing a higher level of unanticipated schedule changes. This is about $140 and $185 lower than childless men and working fathers, respectively. For someone working full-time, full-month, this could translate to roughly half a month’s rent for a one bedroom apartment in places like Texas, Oregon, Utah, and North Carolina, or three-quarters of a month’s rent for a similar unit in Kentucky or Louisiana.

In general, regardless of the intensity of frequent schedule instability, women raising children consistently make the least money, even after we account for other factors we know about their job and the family. Note that the results we see here capture the involuntary employer-driven schedule changes, which is different from the “flexibility” discussion that enables workers to accommodate their work and care by choice.

Policymakers should be concerned about the results because improving equity for women’s work and economic well-being amid economic recovery is vital for overall growth. Local, state, or federal policy measures could protect workers in low-wage jobs with frequently unpredictable scheduling. Currently, only several cities and one state have passed predictive scheduling laws. Also, a monthly child allowance is an option for policymakers concerned about working mothers and parents with work-hour insecurity, particularly parents in low-wage jobs.

Support Cepr


If you value CEPR's work, support us by making a financial contribution.

Si valora el trabajo de CEPR, apóyenos haciendo una contribución financiera.

Donate Apóyanos

Keep up with our latest news