The Parenthood Premium for Lesbians in the US


Author/Creator ORCID


Type of Work


Hood College George B. Delaplaine Jr. School of Business


Hood College Departmental Honors

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States



Previous studies have found that lesbians earn more than straight women, and mothers earn less than non-mothers. Studies about lesbian women and mothers are often considered when explaining the gender wage gap but have rarely been studied at the same time. National surveys that include sexual orientation are not common, and data is often only available for people in same sex couples which can skew results with miscoded roommates. For this reason, this paper uses data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to study only married women. To ensure that all data was collected at least a year after same sex marriage was legalized in the US, our data ranges from 2017 to the most recent data from 2019. We estimate the difference in annual income between married lesbian mothers and married straight mothers. We find that married lesbian mothers experience a wage premium relative to married straight mothers in our Ordinary Least Squares regression accounting for demographic, educational, occupational, and work-related variables. A Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition was also done to see if the income differences between the straight and lesbian married mothers can be accounted for by cross-group differences. It showed that discrimination is a component of the difference, and gender stereotypes and expectations are part of the parenthood penalty/premium. Further research into differences between parents of opposite sexual orientation is an important next step to determining the cause and possible policy changes to lower the motherhood penalty in the US.