How does paid maternity leave affect children?

Abstract: This paper provides the first evidence of the effect of a U.S. paid maternity leave policy on the long-run outcomes of children. I exploit variation in access to paid leave that was created by long-standing state differences in short-term disability insurance coverage and the state-level roll-out of laws banning discrimination against pregnant workers in the 1960s and 1970s. While the availability of these benefits sparked a substantial expansion of leave-taking by new mothers, it also came with a cost. The enactment of paid leave led to shifts in labor supply and demand that decreased wages and family income among women of child-bearing age. In addition, the first generation of children born to mothers with access to maternity leave benefits were 1.9 percent less likely to attend college and 3.1 percent less likely to earn a four-year college degree.

That is the job market paper of Brenden Timpe, a brave man from the University of Michigan.

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Brave indeed! *ducks*

"While the availability of these benefits sparked a substantial expansion of leave-taking by new mothers, it also came with a cost. The enactment of paid leave led to shifts in labor supply and demand that decreased wages and family income among women of child-bearing age" - what the paper is saying is that mothers who don't take time off from work and simply work while pregnant and afterwards make more money and hence their kids get better prenatal care. Either that or the paper is bogus data mining. Note the percentages are so small either way that this easily could be just noise.

"Either that or the paper is bogus data mining."

Yes. While I don't have time to read the paper, I'm quite skeptical that meaningful results with that level of precision can be derived from the sort of data/analysis described.

Me too.

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Very interesting time span, considering what else was going in America, particularly in the 1970s among women who were able to work. Undoubtedly, he controlled for the massive wave of divorce that occurred during that period, right? Admittedly, text searching the paper for 'divorce' did not result in any matches, but certainly an economist would be aware of the vast shifts that occurred in the U.S. between 1960 and 1980 that had nothing to do with maternity leave policies at the state level.

Was a text search for 'divorce' the extent of your engagement with the paper? Or, after that search, did you read it?

Pretty much, since I am not in the job market for economists.

My assumption, based on having actually lived through that time period, is that women in jobs good enough to be covered by his sleight of hand replacement of paid maternity leave with banning discrimination against pregnant women and short term disability insurance coverage would also offer women more ability to be independent enough of a husband's income and thus to divorce.

Basically, it is reasonable to assume he has simply found another way to discover the effects of divorce during that time period, regardless of how he tries to construct something concerning paid maternity leave as being the major driver of what he wishes to point out.

For example, this could be considered to completely dismiss any other reason for the effect he finds - 'and allow me to link individuals’
exposure to paid leave benefits at birth to measures of human capital accumulation decades later.' This is just silly, without taking into account to what happened to those individuals after birth, which in the period he is discussing involved a massive wave of divorce, driven in large part by the fact that enough women had started working to allow divorce to become a realistic option for them.

Then there is this - 'My estimates of negative effects on women’s family income suggests that these results may be driven by a decrease in family resources during children’s formative years.' Again, not saying a word about divorce during the period he mentions, while attributing a decline in family income to paid maternity leave benefits is simply another example of why searching for 'divorce' was an adequate filter, after spending some time 'engaging' with a paper that clearly has a story to tell, and is not going to bother with actually looking at the vast social changes going on in the U.S. during that time period - of which paid maternity leave/changes in discrimination law against pregnant women/short term disability insurance were a minor part (even the conflation necessary to create a framework of 'paid maternity leave' in that period should be enough of a warning signal, actually).

What does divorce have to do with employers demand side response to paid maternity leave?

Children are affected.

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'What does divorce have to do with employers demand side response to paid maternity leave?'

But that is not a full picture of what the paper claims to demonstrate - 'In addition, the first generation of children born to mothers with access to maternity leave benefits were 1.9 percent less likely to attend college and 3.1 percent less likely to earn a four-year college degree.'

Basically, if he wishes merely to talk about a reduction in female pay due to maternity policies, fair enough (though his data sets do seem to be less than natural, considering the explanations to how he generated some of them). However, to somehow connect this reduction in pay to the effects it causes upon children without at any point bringing up the vast social changes in America between 1954 and 1985 is simply not credible - 'To measure outcomes for several years before and after the enactment of paid leave in all states, I restrict the sample to individuals born between 1954 and 1985.'

Much more was going on in the U.S. in that 3 decades than what he calls 'paid maternity leave.'

Good points on the demographic changes. So when we hear about the shrinking middle class or how the middle class was better off in the 70’s, we can apply those same demographic controls?

It just seems like most center left people hate controlling for demographic factors when making income and wellness cosmparisons through time....

'Good points on the demographic changes.'

No, these were social changes primarily, not demographic (depending on perspective, of course). Divorce and a resulting single parent household generally leads to the children having less resources, compared to children living in a two parent household. This is so basic that the fact the author of the paper does not even consider it certainly justifies another commenter saying the work may well be 'bogus data mining.'

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All your skepticism assumes that those working moms who were exposed to paid maternity leave also had a differential divorce rate than the working moms who were not exposed to paid maternity leave. This may be the case and one could certainly do a statistical test to see if this is indeed the case, but your skepticism seems overly broad. You say social changes are doing the work here. I say you need to assume a lot about the distribution of social changes conditional on exposure to paid maternity leave to make your critiques of the paper valid.

All my skepticism says is that numbers like 1.9% or 3.1% are basically noise if the author of the paper does not even attempt to deal with the massive social change in American society between 1954 and 1985 in terms of divorce.

Of which paid maternity leave played basically no real role, accept perhaps as a marker of some women having good enough jobs to consider divorce a realistic option. Or at least living in states which were more accepting of divorce - a connection that should be fairly obvious on its face, though details are important of course.

"All my skepticism says is that numbers like 1.9% or 3.1% are basically noise if the author of the paper does not even attempt to deal with the massive social change in American society between 1954 and 1985 in terms of divorce."

+1, I would agree that this would tend to invalidate the results unless they carefully controlled for it.

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"In addition, the first generation of children born to mothers with access to maternity leave benefits were 1.9 percent less likely to attend college and 3.1 percent less likely to earn a four-year college degree."

That's a poor sentence. What does he mean by "mothers with access to maternity leave benefits"? Does he mean what he says or does he mean 'mothers who received maternity leave benefits'?

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One Point Nine Per Cent

Economists are certainly adept at circumcising mosquitos.

Sample size?

A spurious degree of accuracy.

Read to find out

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Maternity leave makes women less likely to simply quit their jobs in order to take care of their new children full-time for years.

It also makes couples less likely to think in terms of a man-supporting-the-family arrangement.

It weakens the overall social assumption that a man would support his family.

(My son's mother had 12 weeks of maternity leave, which is less than three months. After that, I took care of him -- I was in grad school and in any case a loser incapable of supporting a family. She had to "pump" breast milk during breaks in the office bathroom -- she found this extremely oppressive.)

Who got custody?

She did, of course. Not that I contested it; I couldn't have afforded any kind of battle. I pay her $850/month.

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Maternity leave makes women less likely to simply quit their jobs in order to take care of their new children full-time for years.

Are you sure? Without maternity leave, some women who would have taken it and returned to work do quit. That's one effect. But on the other hand, some women take maternity leave and then decide not to return to their jobs while they might have kept working if leave was not available. Do we really know which effect is stronger?

I'm never sure about anything. Nor do I ever do any research. I just post whatever comes into my head.

Makes you an average MR commenter then - and will avoid having anyone claim you are a troll, too.

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@carlospin:

+1

... absurd that anyone would assert the ability to measure " the effect of a U.S. paid maternity leave policy on the long-run outcomes of children"

Is that 2 children ... 10 children... 100... 10 Million... all children ??

The data collection & variables in such a "serious" study of this issue are staggering. (but just typing on a keyboard is easy)

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"More than one in three U.S. employers offers paid maternity leave beyond the amount required by law, up from one in six earlier this decade, according to new data from the Society for Human Resource Management. . . . All 20 of the biggest companies in the U.S. now offer at least some paid maternity leave, with a handful of those employers offering time off for more than just the birth mother. . . . Companies haven’t necessarily discovered a new appreciation for working parents. This new-found generosity is generally self-serving—it’s meant to keep workers happy without raising their wages." https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-28/more-companies-than-ever-offer-paid-parental-leave

But it's a benefit for the few: "Nevertheless, most Americans aren’t getting paid time off to care for newborns. As of 2017, only 15 percent of U.S. workers got any paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from 11 percent in 2012. . . . Even companies that offer parental leave don’t always offer it to all workers. A survey of 385 employers from World at Work last year found that about 22 percent of companies which offer paid leave only give it to some workers."

Well, that might be a completely rational situation, depending on whether the new mom is an Intel process design engineer with 6 years of experience, or a coffee shop barista with 6 months. Or even if the experience numbers were reversed.

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" [T]he U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The smallest amount of paid leave required in any of the other 40 nations is about two months." http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/26/u-s-lacks-mandated-paid-parental-leave/ Why the resistance to paid leave for new parents? Americans may wish to encourage couples to have more children, but not all couples: only the right couples.

Or perhaps because it’s an expensive part of the compensation package, and it’s best left up to each company to determine whether or not to provide it, and if so, in what amount. Like 401k match, or education reimbursement, or life insurance - all of which are other competitors for those benefit dollars.

You are correct, Engineer, but it does bother me that all the incentives line up for Idiocracy to come true.

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>"decreased wages and family income among women of child-bearing age. "

WHAT?!?! How could this be???

Oh, I know. Misogyny.

And if it isn't misogyny -- if it's just a logical consequence of this law -- I do hope that anyone who voted for expanding maternity leave was thoroughly ripped by the New York Times for intentionally widening the Gender Pay Gap.

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Whether it is helpful or not, the US government has no business or authority to tell private employers that they must grant costly benefits.

The social and economic engineering mindset of autocracy has infected too many Americans.

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OMG, I can't even. :-(

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My current hypothesis is that, if you choose not to control for lead exposure, you can show that just about every liberal policy first enacted on a state level leads to worse educational outcomes in the affected population.

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Tyler does not spouse neo-reactionary views but he does link pieces providing support for them quiet often.

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