Social Security Benefits Less for Moms, Study Finds

Mothers with one child receive 16 percent less in benefits than non-mothers, and each additional child shrinks benefits by another 2 percent, according to a new paper from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College titled How Much Does Motherhood Cost Women in Social Security Benefits?

In an article for, contributing writer Kate Ashford explained, “Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest earning years, and since women are still more likely to handle caregiving responsibilities, they’re also more likely to take time off for children or to earn less for a few years due to children. It only takes a few “zero” years to drag down the average.”

Matthew Rutledge, a research economist with the CRR and a co-author of the study, pondered whether policymakers should consider compensating women for their lost earnings due to motherhood. “There’s been some effort to give caregiver credits to people who take time out of the workforce, a bonus in the Social Security calculation so they’re not overly penalized,” Rutledge says. “It’s a valuable thing to be taking care of kids or elders or the disabled, and we don’t want to discourage that.”