Parental Leave Policies, Early Maternal Employment, and Child Outcomes in the U.S.

Lawrence M. Berger, Princeton University
Jennifer Hill, Columbia University

This paper explores links between parental leave policies, the length of time mothers remain at home after giving birth, and cognitive, behavioural, and health related outcomes for children. We use state leave laws and unionization rates as instruments to estimate the effect of (instrumented) early maternal employment on a series of child outcomes in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Health related outcomes include whether the child received preventive "well-baby" care and the frequency of that "well-baby" care in the first year of life, whether the child was breast-fed and the duration of breast-feeding in the first year of life, and whether the child was fully immunized by age 18 months. We also examine the effects of (instrumented) early maternal employment on child cognitive and behavioural outcomes assessed at age 3 or 4. Preliminary results suggest that the shortfall in parental leave coverage in the U.S. may affect child well-being.

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