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Maternity leave and the employment of new mothers in the United States


We use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to examine the relationships between maternity leave coverage and U.S. women’s post-birth leave taking and employment decisions from 1988 to 1996. We find that women who were employed before birth are working much more quickly post-birth than women who were not. We also find that, among mothers who were employed pre-birth, those in jobs that provided leave coverage are more likely to take a leave of up to 12 weeks, but return more quickly after 12 weeks. Our results suggest that maternity leave coverage is related to leave taking, as well as the length of time that a new mother stays home after a birth.

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Correspondence to Jane Waldfogel.

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All correspondence to: Jane Waldfogel. Funding for this project was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the William T. Grant Foundation. We are grateful to the editor and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Responsible editor: Daniel S. Hamermesh.

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Berger, L., Waldfogel, J. Maternity leave and the employment of new mothers in the United States. J Popul Econ 17, 331–349 (2004).

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  • Maternity leave
  • women’s employment

JEL classification

  • I3
  • J00