For some women, a break from work around childbirth is a temporary period of recovery and bonding before resuming their previous work responsibilities. For others, however, it constitutes a more significant shift away from the workforce to focus on caregiving.
Whether a new mother fully detaches from the labor force at the point of birth—by quitting her job or being fired without pursuing further employment—may determine whether such a break from work is temporary or more long term. That determination about if or when to return to work after childbirth is dependent on a host of personal and economic factors, such as the degree to which a new mother can rely on other adults to provide care, the care needs of her child, her career goals, and her employer’s flexibility.
When paid family leave is accessible, it facilitates a return to work for some women when they might otherwise remain at home. That is the central finding of a new working paper by economists Kelly Jones and Britni Wilcher of American University, which examines the long-term effects of motherhood on labor force participation in two states with guaranteed paid family leave: California and New Jersey.
This paper contributes to mounting evidence that access to paid family and medical leave can improve both labor market outcomes for women and families’ well-being. It also adds to a subset of research around the effects of paid leave on more disadvantaged families. When disaggregating their results by mothers’ race and ethnicity and education level, Jones and Wilcher find that the benefits of paid leave were more pronounced and longer lasting for white, highly educated women in California and New Jersey’s labor market.
Read the full article about paid family leave by Sam Abbott at The Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
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