Putting a Price Tag on Mom’s Stress Load

Putting a Price Tag on Mom’s Stress Load Photo (cc) by Live to Create Photography

When a woman has a child, the new mother’s stress is so great that she would need to earn the equivalent of a well-paying full-time salary to compensate for the strain, according to a new study.

The research by economists puts a price tag on that stress: as much as $66,500 per year.

The research, written up in a working paper titled “The Stress Cost of Children,” was recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private nonprofit in Massachusetts.

The paper examines two types of stress: stress put on parents’ time and stress put on parents’ finances.

Economists studied data from Australian and German surveys of married couples. Couples were asked questions such as, “How often do you feel rushed or pressed for time?”

The economists found that following the birth of a child, time stress increases for both parents, “especially among mothers.” Financial stress for both mothers and fathers also increased “slightly.”

The researchers found that the annual income of Australian mothers would have to increase by about $66,500 to compensate for the stress that new motherhood puts on their time and finances. The researchers found a smaller effect among German mothers, who would need about $48,000 more.

One of the study’s authors, University of Texas economics professor Daniel S. Hamermesh, tells CBS News:

“I would have liked something smaller or more reasonable, but that’s the way the dice fell. This is a serious problem. The theory we base on it is that stress is an indicator of making you worse off.”

Prior research published by NBER found that mothers, depending on their skill level, can lose out on $49,000 to $230,000 in potential lifetime earnings compared with women who never give birth.

One possible solution, Hamermesh tells CBS, is for societies to re-examine their gender roles as they pertain to child-rearing:

“Women bear the cost, so maybe [men] should do more to lessen the time stress on women.”

Do you agree with that suggestion? How do you think society should adjust in light of mothers’ stress loads? Sound off in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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