Study Finds Paid Family Leave Is Effective in Getting College-Educated Women to Return to the Workforce

A new study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., finds that states that have implemented paid leave policies found a 20 percent reduction in the number of women leaving their jobs in the first year after welcoming a child, and up to a 50 percent reduction after five years.

Over the long term, paid leave nearly closes the gap in workforce participation between moms of young children and women without minor children. For women who do not have access to this leave, the study found that nearly 30 percent will drop out of the workforce within a year after welcoming a child, and one in five will not return for over a decade.

The impact of access to paid leave was particularly pronounced for women with higher levels of education, who saw increases in their labor force participation up to eight years after birth. This trend indicates that paid leave is especially important for ensuring that the most educated workers can participate in the workforce.

“In most U.S. households, when a child is born, the default is that the mom steps away from the labor force at least temporarily,” said economist and study co-author Kelly Jones, an assistant professor in the department of economics at American University in Washington, D.C., and a senior research economist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “If she can do that in a way that guarantees her return to that job and provides partial wage replacement, we are much more likely to encourage her attachment to the workforce.”

Dr. Jones is a graduate of Mississippi State University, whre she majored in mathematics. She earned a master’s degree in international relations at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

In December 2019, Congress took an important step forward by passing legislation to provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the nation’s 2.1 million federal workers. But the report states that lawmakers must do more to ensure every family has access to paid leave to welcome a new child or manage a serious illness.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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