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Family Leave after Childbirth and the Health of New Mothers

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  • Pinka Chatterji
  • Sara Markowitz

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14156
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Pinka Chatterji & Sara Markowitz & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2011. "Early Maternal Employment and Family Wellbeing," NBER Working Papers 17212, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies

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