Women with more kids are more productive at work

Productivity dips during the toddler years, but in the long term moms get more done

Woman working at desk with a lot of baby photos strewn around

(Kagan McLeod)

To all the working moms out there who feel guilty for missing a meeting because a sick child had to go to the doctor: Don’t. You are more productive than your childless peers. That’s according to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which found that over the course of a 30-year career, mothers outperformed women without children at almost every stage of their careers.

The researchers analyzed the amount of research published by more than 10,000 academic economists as a determinant for productivity. They found that within roughly the first five years of a highly-skilled woman’s career, those who never have children substantially underperformed those who do. Mothers with two or more kids were the most productive of all.

The study’s authors noted that young children take a toll on their mothers’ work—there’s a 15% to 17% drop in productivity among women with toddlers—and those with multiple children will have a 9.5% drop in performance after their first child, 12.5% after the second one, and 11% after the third child. The researchers also found that becoming a mother before 30 years old appears to have a detrimental effect on women’s productivity. They say that mothers tend to be more productive both before and long after the birth of their children, and when the work is smoothed out over the course of a career, they’re more productive overall.

So for you working moms who snuck out of the office to pick-up the kids before daycare closed: Don’t sweat it. You earned that Supermom mug.