The idea that parenthood is an immeasurable treasure resonates with many, but it’s often mothers who bear the weight of proving it. While numerous studies have delved into the financial and career challenges women encounter after becoming mothers, a recent study has taken an unparalleled dive into data, unearthing a critical factor contributing to the “motherhood penalty” — deeply rooted cultural norms in the United States concerning work and parenting.

This post originally appeared in FORTUNE by Chloe Berger on July 18, 2023.

A comprehensive study led by Douglas Almond, Yi Cheng, and Cecilia Machado  found that the motherhood penalty affects all American mothers regardless of variables like salary or employer. After the first child’s birth, men’s earnings remain steady, while mothers experience a significant 51% pay reduction, equivalent to an average annual loss of $8,000. This wage gap persists over time, with a slight increase observed six years after childbirth.

The motherhood penalty remains consistent regardless of workplace attributes or even if the mother is the primary breadwinner. The study highlights how American culture reinforces the notion that childcare duties primarily belong to mothers.

A TIAA survey shows that women have nearly 30% less retirement savings than men do, in part, to childcare-related choices.

Support for working mothers in the U.S. workforce is lacking, especially beyond the early stages of parenthood. The high cost of childcare further compounds these issues, disproportionately affecting women, single parents, those in poverty, families of color, and immigrants.

While affordable childcare is proposed as a solution, Almond suggests that true change requires transforming deeply ingrained sexist cultural norms and redefining societal views of parental roles.

To get the full story, read the original article over on FORTUNE.