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Parental Leave and Mothers' Careers: The Relative Importance of Job Protection and Cash Benefits

  • Rafael Lalive
  • Analía Schlosser
  • Andreas Steinhauer


  • Josef Zweimüller

Parental leave regulations in most OECD countries have two key policy instruments: job protection and cash benefits. This paper studies how mothers’ return to work behavior and labor market outcomes are affected by alternative mixes of these key policy parameters. Exploiting a series of major parental leave policy changes in Austria, we find that longer cash benefits lead to a significant delay in return to work and that the magnitude of this effect depends on the relative length of job protection and cash benefits. However, despite their impact on time on leave, we do not find a significant effect on mothers’ labor market outcomes in the medium run, neither of benefit duration nor of job-protection duration. To understand the relative importance (and interaction) of the two policy instruments in shaping mothers’ return to work behavior, we set up a non-stationary job search model in which cash benefits and job protection determine decisions of when to return to work and whether or not to return to the pre-birth employer. Despite its lean structure, the model does surprisingly well in matching empirically observed return to work profiles. The simulation of alternative counterfactual regimes shows that a policy that combines both job protection and benefits payments succeeds to induce mothers to spend some time with the child after birth without jeopardizing their medium run labor market attachment.

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Paper provided by The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series NRN working papers with number 2011-14.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:nrnwps:2011_14
Contact details of provider: Postal: NRN Labor Economics and the Welfare State, c/o Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, Altenbergerstr. 69, 4040 Linz
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  1. Lawrence M. Berger & Jane Waldfogel, 2004. "Maternity leave and the employment of new mothers in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 331-349, 06.
  2. Hashimoto, Masanori & Percy, Rick & Schoellner, Teresa & Weinberg, Bruce A., 2004. "The Long and Short of It: Maternity Leave Coverage and Women’s Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 1207, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Schönberg, Uta & Ludsteck, Johannes, 2007. "Maternity Leave Legislation, Female Labor Supply, and the Family Wage Gap," IZA Discussion Papers 2699, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Merz, Monika, 2004. "Women's Hours of Market Work in Germany: The Role of Parental Leave," IZA Discussion Papers 1288, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Rafael LALIVE, 2006. "How do Extended Benefits affect Unemployment Duration? A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 06.06, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  6. David Card & Dean R. Hyslop, 2004. "Estimating the Effects of a Time Limited Earnings Subsidy for Welfare Leavers," NBER Working Papers 10647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "The Economic Consequences of Parental Leave Mandates: Lessons from Europe," NBER Working Papers 5688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jan Boone & Jan C. van Ours, 2009. "Why is there a Spike in the Job Finding Rate at Benefit Exhaustion?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2840, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Lalive, Rafael & Zweimüller, Josef, 2005. "Does Parental Leave Affect Fertility and Return-to-Work? Evidence from a "True Natural Experiment"," IZA Discussion Papers 1613, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-09, January.
  11. Wen-Jui Han & Jane Waldfogel, 2003. "Parental leave: The impact of recent legislation on parents’ leave taking," Demography, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 191-200, February.
  12. Jan Ondrich & C. Spiess & Qing Yang & Gert Wagner, 2003. "The Liberalization of Maternity Leave Policy and the Return to Work after Childbirth in Germany," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 77-110, January.
  13. David S. Lee, 2002. "Trimming for Bounds on Treatment Effects with Missing Outcomes," NBER Technical Working Papers 0277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:41-74 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Charles L. Baum II, 2003. "The Effects of Maternity Leave Legislation on Mothers' Labor Supply after Childbirth," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 772-799, April.
  16. Baum, Charles II, 2003. "The effect of state maternity leave legislation and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act on employment and wages," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(5), pages 573-596, October.
  17. Jane Waldfogel, 1999. "The impact of the family and medical leave act," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(2), pages 281-302.
  18. 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.
  19. Pylkkänen, Elina & Smith, Nina, 2004. "The Impact of Family-Friendly Policies in Denmark and Sweden on Mothers' Career Interruptions Due to Childbirth," IZA Discussion Papers 1050, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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