Babies vs. Billable Hours

The study on lawyers with children vs. those without children found opposites when comparing genders

By Graham F. Scott

On Friday March 28th, 2008

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A recent study of 670 Alberta lawyers found that childless women billed more hours than anyone else, while mothers billed the least. For men, the opposite was true: fathers billed more than their kidless, swingin’ bachelor colleagues. The study, by two social scientists at the University of Calgary, surveyed the lawyers based on their gender, whether they had children, and their billable hours for the last fiscal year, among other factors. “The presence of children is negatively associated with mothers’ productivity but positively associated with fathers’ productivity,” they hypothesized, and the numbers they found seem to confirm that notion.

The study has provoked some interesting criticism (the comments section of the Wall Street Journal blog make for amusing reading). Equating billable hours with productivity is a big leap to make, first of all: more hours at the office don’t necessarily mean better or more efficient work is getting done. And the sample size for the research was small and isolated to Alberta. The general lesson to take from this, however, seems to be that — once again — working mothers are getting a raw deal.