How does having children affect one’s income and number of years in the workforce? Michael Stegmann and Tatjana Mika studied German women born 1928-1955, who had their children after the Second World War but before 1989. The differences between East Germany and West Germany are striking, but both countries followed a predictable pattern: childless women worked more, and had more income, than women with children.
For each child born, women worked for fewer years.
In West Germany, women born 1928-1938 with no children worked for pay an average of twenty-seven years. Those with one child worked for twenty-two years, and those with two children worked 18 years and 5 months.
In East Germany, women without children worked for wages for 34 years; the birth of one child lessened the average work life by only 10 months, and the second by an additional year. Women in East Germany with five children worked more years—twenty-eight—than those in West Germany with no children.
Women with no children had more income from savings and government welfare than did women with children.
In West Germany, the difference in income grew up until about age 37, at which point income for women with just one child reached on average only 70% of that of women with no children. The more children a woman had, the lower the income. After this age, the difference in income declined as more mothers rejoined the workforce or increased their working hours.
In East Germany, incomes diverged when the women were in their twenties, but converged in their thirties and were very close by the time women reached their forties (this income reached only 80% of the maximum average income for women in West Germany).
In both West and East Germany, state-provided benefits for parents did not make up for the gap in wages.
Michael Stegmann and Tatjana Mika, "Kinderlosigkeit, Kindererziehung und Erwerbstätigkeitsmuster von Frauen in der Bundesrepublik und der DDR und ihre Auswirkungen auf das Alterseinkommen," in Dirk Konietzka and Michaela Kreyenfeld, eds., Ein Leben ohne Kinder: Kinderlosigkeit in Deutschland (Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2007): 201-241.