How much is moms' work worth? Take 2

Experts duke it out in the Wall Street Journal!


Katharine Mieszkowski
May 13, 2006 12:26AM (UTC)

A few weeks ago, Broadsheet mentioned a study by the compensation Web site Salary.com that concluded that a full-time stay-at-home mom's salary would be $134,121 a year if she were paid for all she does. Some Broadsheet readers objected to this eye-popping figure, while others defended it.

Today, the Wall Street Journal's "Numbers Guy," Carl Bialik, revives the debate in a column (subscription required) called "Should Mom's Pay Be $134,121?" Bialik's answer, as you might expect, is it depends on how you count.

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First, he reviews the methodology behind the moms salary survey. Salary.com consulted 400 moms -- both stay at home and working -- about how they spend their time. The top 10 roles the moms said that they perform in the household correlated to these job titles: housekeeper, day-care-center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry-machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist. By calculating hourly wages associated with these jobs, determining the time spent by moms on each of them, and accounting for overtime paid at time and a half, the Salary.com folks came up with an annual salary of $134,121 for a stay-at-home mom and $85,876 for a working mom.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin isn't buying it. In Bialik's article, she dismisses the whole exercise as "silly."

"The calculation isn't for what anyone would pay an individual," Goldin said. "Nor is it for exactly what the individual does. It is for what the person claims they are doing during a long day -- CEO, psychologist, etc. And what exactly is the salary for the CEO of a business that shows no profits and sells no services or goods? I think it is probably zero." Ouch.

Bill Coleman, Salary.com's senior vice president of compensation, didn't take Goldin's dis lightly. Bialik writes: "Coleman called that assessment 'naive,' citing nonprofit executives and adding that The Wall Street Journal 'writes about CEOs who drive companies into the ground and take home millions. The average mother is not driving her family into the ground.'"

Now, if there were only a way to redistribute those millions paid to incompetent executives to mothers. Maybe Salary.com can figure out how to get that done in time for next year's Mother's Day promotion.


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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