The Pew Charitable Trusts has a new report out today looking at how much further up the economic ladder daughters have climbed relative to their parents. The bottom line: Daughters usually earn more than their mothers but less than their fathers. Of women who were around age 40 in the 2000s, about 85 percent had higher wages than their mothers did at about the same age, but only 47 percent earned more than their fathers. By contrast, almost 70 percent of sons make more money than their fathers did.
Part of the reason today’s women earn more than their moms, of course, is that norms have changed: Today’s women are much more likely to have any earnings at all. Only half of the mothers tracked in the study were employed in 1968-1972; of their daughters, 86 percent had jobs.
Even so, there does seem to be some heritability, from mother to daughter, of preferences for working (or perhaps, financial or cultural pressures to work or not).
At my request, Pew crunched numbers for daughters’ employment status based on whether their mothers were employed. Here are the results:
As you can see, the daughters of moms who worked full time are themselves more likely to work full time than are the daughters of moms who worked fewer hours (or not at all).
There’s another wrinkle to this story: Daughters who grew up in households where mom didn’t work actually have the highest family incomes today. But that appears to be because these daughters ended up marrying better-paid men, not because the daughters are bringing home more bacon themselves.
Women whose mothers didn’t have jobs have a median family income (blue bars) of about $86,000. Those whose mothers worked either full time and part time have median family incomes today of about $81,000 and $73,000, respectively.
“Median family income,” however, includes all labor-related earnings, dividends, interest, etc. brought in by any member of the family. If you hone in on just what employed daughters themselves are earning (red bars), and sort them by their moms’ labor-force status, you don’t see any statistically significant difference among their median earnings. In other words, among daughters who work, their earnings are all about the same across the board, regardless of whether their moms worked full time, part time or not at all; it’s the other sources of family income, such as spouses’ wages, that bump up if the daughters grew up with stay-at-home moms.