The Statistics Behind Whether Working Mothers Inspire Their Daughters to Work

by Jean-Paul Salamanca



A woman’s place: where is it?

That question has been long asked in the U.S. since the advent of women’s rights as we’ve seen more women old jobs, careers and important positions around the nation than ever before. And now, The New York Times’ stats-friendly series “The Upshot” takes a look at that question in the form of the benefits that children of working mothers experience.

The article makes note of a new study taken in 25 countries worldwide stating that the daughters of working mothers finish more school years, are more likely to have jobs and make more money. And in a strange flip, sons of working mothers were more likely to tend the house and raise the kids while mom was away.

While the new study had some interesting findings, it seems to fall short in a few categories. First, it relies on what appears to be a survey from the International Social Survey Program,  and it seems to be more of a sample-based survey spanning more than two dozen countries, presumably developed countries. While it might have been the only way to test as many countries as possible in a limited amount of time, one cannot help but to wonder if the results would have been different if there were complete survey analysis available.

There is also another factor involved that may cloud the results: the actual impact of the mother. While it might have tried to narrow the scope as much as possible, it is hard to prove whether a working mother is directly responsible for daughters entering the workforce. Are there other factors available (i.e. more education opportunities, scholarships, labor market needs, etc.) that are at work as well? That is hard to gauge based solely on these results.

That is not to say that this is a faulty way to measure this kind of question. In terms of getting the most accurate results given a limited period of time, this measure of sampling might be the way to go. But in terms of standing behind it as the true litmus test for whether a working mom inspires their kids to work, there might be other ways to go.


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