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All in the Family : Happy Home Life Pays Off at Work, Study Shows

June 14, 1995|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Working moms and dads who early in their lives placed a bigger priority on family than on climbing the career ladder may be in for a pleasant surprise. People who ranked family over work got paychecks 4% to 7% larger in the long run than those who declined to make family No. 1, according to a study.

Factors contributing to a poor family life--such as divorce or a bad marriage--may be hazardous to your work.

"If you have a bad family life, that takes a lot of time. And it's an enormous distraction while trying to work on your career," said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

The study by Cappelli and two others--Jill Constantine of Williams College and Clint Chadwick of Wharton--contradicts other studies as well as the conventional wisdom that people who put family over career will earn less.

"A stable, mature and happy family life may well allow one more time and energy to devote to the workplace than does a family life fraught with problems," the report says. "Putting it differently, avoiding a bad family life may really pay off."

The authors said that choosing early in life--at age 17 or 18--to make family a priority yields dividends in the workplace down the road.

The study, which covered 2,140 men and 2,128 women, is significantly different from previous surveys, its authors say.

For starters, according to the researchers, it draws on data involving high school seniors from the early 1970s, keeping tabs on their progress over time.

People who said in 1972 that it was very important to "find the right person to marry" and "have a good family life" earned 4% to 7% more in pay 14 years later than those who put less value on marriage and family.

The study accounted for differences in education, work experience and marital status. The researchers also argued that most previous studies never considered the effects that a dysfunctional family life can have on wages and careers.

"A good family life may well demand time, energy, roles, etc. that potentially take away from efforts needed to achieve in the workplace," the report says.

But it adds that a poor family life "may make even greater demands" on a person's time and efforts. "Finding the 'right' person to marry and making an investment in a good marriage from the beginning may be the most important factor in having a good family life," it says.

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