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Does the Length of Maternity Leave Affect Maternal Health?


  • Pinka Chatterji

    () (Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School)

  • Sara Markowitz

    () (Department of Economics, Rutgers University)


The objective of this paper is to investigate the impact of the length of maternity leave on maternal health in a sample of working mothers. Two measures of depression and a measure of outpatient health visits are used to represent maternal health. Ordinary least squares models provide baseline estimates, and instrumental variables models account for the potential endogeneity of the return-to-work decision. The findings suggest that returning to work later is associated with a reduction in the number or frequency of depressive symptoms. There is suggestive but inconclusive evidence that longer maternity leave is associated with a lower probability of being a likely case of clinical depression and a lower likelihood of having frequent outpatient visits during the first six months after childbirth. These findings contribute to the literature on maternal leave policy, which focuses primarily on the benefits of leave for child health and development, by evaluating the influence of longer maternal leave on the health of mothers.

Suggested Citation

  • Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz, 2005. "Does the Length of Maternity Leave Affect Maternal Health?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 16-41, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:72:1:y:2005:p:16-41

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2000. "Parental leave and child health," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 931-960, November.
    2. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, January.
    3. Blau, Francine D & Grossberg, Adam J, 1992. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(3), pages 474-481, August.
    4. Gjerdingen, Dwenda K. & Debra, Froberg, 1991. "Predictors of health in new mothers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 33(12), pages 1399-1407, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charles L. Baum II & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2016. "The Effects of Paid Family Leave in California on Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(2), pages 333-356, April.
    2. Waldfogel, Jane, 2004. "Social mobility, life chances, and the early years," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6302, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Wen-Jui Han & Christopher Ruhm & Jane Waldfogel, 2009. "Parental leave policies and parents' employment and leave-taking," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(1), pages 29-54.
    4. Sharon Lerner & Eileen Appelbaum, 2014. "Business As Usual: New Jersey Employers’ Experiences with Family Leave Insurance," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2014-12, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
    5. Guertzgen, Nicole & Hank, Karsten, 2014. "Maternity leave and mothers' long-term sickness absence: Evidence from Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-109, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    6. Würtz, Astrid, 2007. "The Long-Term Effect on Children of Increasing the Length of Parents' Birth-Related Leave," Working Papers 07-11, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
    7. Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2013. "Effects of early maternal employment on maternal health and well-being," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 285-301, January.
    8. Beuchert, Louise Voldby & Humlum, Maria Knoth & Vejlin, Rune, 2016. "The length of maternity leave and family health," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 55-71.
    9. Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Nancy E. Reichman, 2005. "Mother's Labor Supply in Fragile Families: The Role of Child Health," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 601-616, Fall.
    10. Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz, 2008. "Family Leave after Childbirth and the Health of New Mothers," NBER Working Papers 14156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2015. "Maternity leave and children’s cognitive and behavioral development," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 373-391, April.
    12. Barbara Broadway & Guyonne Kalb, 2015. "The Effect of Paid Parental Leave on Child Health in Australia," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2015n09, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    13. Herwig Immervoll & David Barber, 2005. "Can Parents Afford to Work?: Childcare Costs, Tax-Benefit Policies and Work Incentives," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 31, OECD Publishing.
    14. Avendano, Mauricio & Berkman, Lisa F. & Brugiavini, Agar & Pasini, Giacomo, 2015. "The long-run effect of maternity leave benefits on mental health: Evidence from European countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 45-53.
    15. Anna Cristina D’Addio & Simon Chapple & Andreas Hoherz & Bert Van Landeghem, 2014. "Using a quasi-natural experiment to identify the effects of birth-related leave policies on subjective well-being in Europe," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2013(1), pages 235-268.
    16. repec:eee:wdevel:v:96:y:2017:i:c:p:102-118 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2011. "Early Maternal Employment and Family Wellbeing," NBER Working Papers 17212, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Reed, Joshua & Vandegrift, Donald, 2016. "The Effect of New Jersey’s Paid Parental Leave Policy on Employment," MPRA Paper 74794, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Michael Baker & Kevin Milligan, 2005. "How Does Job-Protected Maternity Leave Affect Mothers' Employment and Infant Health?," NBER Working Papers 11135, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Jane Waldfogel, 2004. "Social Mobility, Life Chances, and the Early Years," CASE Papers 088, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    21. repec:bla:ecorec:v:93:y:2017:i:301:p:214-237 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General


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