Study: Working mothers more productive

The old saying that "if you need something done, give the job to a busy person" seems to be true, with a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showing that working mothers are more productive than their peers over the course of a 30-year career. 

Women with children outperformed women without children at almost every stage of their career, with women with two children being the most productive of all. 

The study was limited in that it focused on the output of 10,000 economists, looking at the number of papers each published over the course of their careers.

Men had a different reaction – those with one child became less productive in the later stages of their careers than those with no children, but men with two or more children consistently outperformed both groups.

There were, however, exceptions to the findings. Becoming a mother before the age of 30 did have a detrimental effect on women's productivity.

It is also important to note that the sample was of a professional career path where parenthood is more often planned, and wages are often high enough to afford things like reliable childcare, allowing them to work longer hours than would otherwise be the case.

The study also found that young children did have a temporary negative impact of 15 to 17 per cent on productivity, but that impact was temporary and later higher productivity more than balanced it out.

However, study author Christian Zimmerman advises against drawing too-strong conclusions about the effects of having a child. He told the Washington Post that it is possible that the type of women most likely to have children could also be the type of women more likely to succeed as economists, in an effect known as the "survivor  bias".

It could simply be the case that the type of person who  tries to juggle children and an academic career tends to be hyper-organised, using the best productivity solutions to maximise their time.

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