Public Policies and Women’s Employment after Childbearing

Wen-Jui Han, Columbia University
Christopher Ruhm, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University
Elizabeth Washbrook, University of Bristol

This paper provides new evidence about how public policies in the United States affect work by mothers during the first months and years following childbirth. We use data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort and simultaneously examine the effects of multiple policies (state parental leave laws, welfare work exemptions, transfer payment generosity, and child care subsidies) using a difference-in-difference (DD) strategy that exploits the fact that each policy we examine is likely to strongly affect some women but not others. We find that the policies providing strong or weak work incentives can have strong effects, particularly when changed in combination and for disadvantaged mothers. Policy packages designed to maximize the choices available to mothers have weaker effects, since some such policies promote early work while others operate in the opposite direction. Some policies, such as parental leave entitlements, have different effects immediately after birth and at later child ages.

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Presented in Session 129: Work and Family Issues