IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Leaves and Leaving: The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Decline in Maternal Labor Force Participation

  • Goodpaster Natalie K


    (Analysis Group, Inc.)

Registered author(s):

    Since the mid-1990s, there has been a steady decrease in the labor force participation of married women with children under the age of six. There is little empirical evidence that changes in demographics are responsible for the falling participation rates. Rather, it appears that this trend is concentrated amongst women with children under the age of two and that federal maternity leave mandates are most responsible. I estimate the effect of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) on participation by using the FMLA as a natural experiment and exploiting state-level differentiation in maternity leave statutes. Theoretically, maternity leave statutes intend to preserve job tenure for expecting mothers. However, if an employed mother on maternity leave learns that her value for staying at home exceeds her value from working, she will exit the labor force once the leave expires. Difference-in-differences estimates show that after the FMLA, employed and expecting married mothers who live in an area without state-mandated maternity leave are 2.7 percentage points more likely to leave the labor force after taking maternity leave than those who live in an area with state-mandated maternity leave. As a sensitivity test, I evaluate married women without infant children and single women as additional control groups to estimate difference-in-difference-in-differences effects of the FMLA. Altogether, the increase in the proportion of mothers leaving the labor force due to federally-mandated maternity leave accounts for almost two-thirds of the overall fall in labor force participation.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: For access to full text, subscription to the journal or payment for the individual article is required.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

    Volume (Year): 10 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 1-38

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:10:y:2010:i:1:n:6
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:10:y:2010:i:1:n:6. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Golla)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.