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Paid Leave Benefits Among a National Sample of Working Mothers with Infants in the United States


To describe a range of employment benefits, including maternity and other paid leave, afforded to working women with infants; and to examine the geographic, socio-demographic correlates of such benefits to inform the workplace policy agenda in the US. Using data from the Listening to Mothers II Survey, a national sample of English-speaking women who gave birth in 2005, we conducted multivariable linear and logistic regression analyses to examine the associations between socio-demographic factors and employment leave variables (paid maternity, sick and personal leave). Forty-one percent of women received paid maternity leave for an average of 3.3 weeks with 31 % wage replacement. On average women took 10 weeks of maternity leave and received 10.4 days of paid sick leave and 11.6 days of paid personal time per year. Women who were non-Hispanic Black, privately insured, working full-time, and from higher income families were more likely to receive paid maternity leave, for more time, and at higher levels of wage replacement, when controlling for the other socio-demographic characteristics. Race/ethnicity, family income and employment status were associated with the number of paid personal days. Currently, the majority of female employees with young children in the US do not receive financial compensation for maternity leave and women receive limited paid leave every year to manage health-related family issues. Further, women from disadvantaged backgrounds generally receive less generous benefits. Federal policy that supports paid leave may be one avenue to address such disparities and should be modified to reflect accepted international standards.

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Family Medical Leave Act


Centers for Disease Control


Listening to Mothers


United States


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Financial support for this project was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Grant Number: 1 T42 OH008433) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health (Grant UL1 TR 000423).

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Correspondence to Megan Shepherd-Banigan.

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Shepherd-Banigan, M., Bell, J.F. Paid Leave Benefits Among a National Sample of Working Mothers with Infants in the United States. Matern Child Health J 18, 286–295 (2014).

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  • Maternal employment
  • Family health
  • Workplace policies
  • Socio-demographic disparities