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Family Leave after Childbirth and the Health of New Mothers

  • Pinka Chatterji
  • Sara Markowitz

In the United States, almost a third of new mothers who worked during pregnancy return to work within three months of childbirth. Current public policies in the U.S. do not support long periods of family leave after childbirth, although some states are starting to change this. As such, it is vital to understand how length of family leave during the first year after childbirth affects families' health and wellbeing. The purpose of this paper is to examine the association between family leave length, which includes leave taking by mothers and fathers, and behavioral and physical health outcomes among new mothers. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Birth Cohort, we examine measures of depression, overall health status, and substance use. We use a standard OLS as well as an instrumental variables approach with county-level employment conditions and state-level maternity leave policies as identifying instruments. The results suggest that longer maternity leave from work, both paid and un-paid, is associated with declines in depressive symptoms, a reduction in the likelihood of severe depression, and an improvement in overall maternal health. We also find that having a spouse that did not take any paternal leave after childbirth is associated with higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms. We do not find, however, that length of paternal leave is associated with overall maternal health, and we find only mixed evidence that leave length after childbirth affects maternal alcohol use and smoking.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14156.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14156.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
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Publication status: published as “Family Leave after Childbirth and the Health of New Mothers” (with Pinka Chatterji). Journal of Men tal Health Policy and Economics. 15:2 (June 2012) 61 - 76
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14156
Note: CH HE LS
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  1. Sonalde Desai & P. L. Chase-Lansdale & Robert Michael, . "Mother or Market? Effects of Maternal Employment on Cognitive Development of Four-year-old Children," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 88-11, Chicago - Population Research Center.
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  3. Susanne James-Burdumy, 2005. "The Effect of Maternal Labor Force Participation on Child Development," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 177-211, January.
  4. Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz, 2004. "Does the Length of Maternity Leave Affect Maternal Health?," NBER Working Papers 10206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Joshua D. Angrist, 2000. "Estimation of Limited-Dependent Variable Models with Dummy Endogenous Regressors: Simple Strategies for Empirical Practice," NBER Technical Working Papers 0248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  7. Charles L. Baum II, 2003. "Does Early Maternal Employment Harm Child Development? An Analysis of the Potential Benefits of Leave Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 381-408, April.
  8. 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.
  9. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1998. "Parental Leave and Child Health," NBER Working Papers 6554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 7666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Francine D. Blau & Adam J. Grossberg, 1990. "Maternal Labor Supply and Children's Cognitive Development," NBER Working Papers 3536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  13. Harriet Presser, 1989. "Can we make time for children? the economy, work schedules, and child care," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 523-543, November.
  14. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "How Well Do Parents With Young Children Combine Work and Family Life," NBER Working Papers 10247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Linda N. Edwards & Elizabeth Field-Hendrey, 2002. "Home-Based Work and Women's Labor Force Decisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 170-200, January.
  16. Harriet Presser, 1995. "Job, family, and gender: Determinants of nonstandard work schedules among employed Americans in 1991," Demography, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 577-598, November.
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