The Effects of a Mother's Return to Work Decision on Child Development in the U.K.

Paul Gregg, University of Bristol
Elizabeth Washbrook, University of Bristol
Carol Propper, University of Bristol
Simon Burgess, University of Bristol

This paper uses data from the U.K. ALSPAC cohort to explore the effects of early maternal employment on child cognitive and behavioural outcomes. We find that it is only full time maternal employment begun in the 18 months after childbirth has any negative effects on later child outcomes. Even here the magnitude of the effect is small. We explore whether the results are biased by unobserved heterogeneity and conduct sub-group analyses to investigate whether certain groups may be more vulnerable to the effects of early full time maternal employment than others. We then explore the mechanisms linking maternal employment to children's development. The mechanisms examined relate to maternal and paternal parenting behaviours, breastfeeding, maternal tiredness and stress, household income and the use of non maternal childcare. We find that a number of these factors operate to minimise the effect of mothers' labour market participation on their children.

  See paper

Presented in Session 12: Parental Leave and Child Outcomes: A Comparative Perspective