Panel Paper: The Effect of State Paid Family Leave Policies on Parent-Child Time Use

Friday, November 9, 2018
Hoover - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Katie Vinopal1, Taryn Morrissey2 and Seth Gershenson2, (1)The Ohio State University, (2)American University

In the U.S., the achievement gap between children from low- versus high-income families is wide, begins before kindergarten, and persists over the K-12 years and beyond (Reardon 2011). Socioeconomic (SES) gaps in both the quality and quantity of parental time spent interacting with young children are well-documented and may contribute to observed SES gaps in school readiness and educational success (Gershenson, 2013; Guryan, Hurst, & Kearney, 2008; Kalil, Ryan, & Corey, 2012; Kalil, Ziol-Guest, Ryan, & Markowitz, 2016).

One policy intervention that may narrow SES gaps in school readiness by increasing the time parents spend with children is paid family leave (PFL). Unlike other developed nations, the United States lacks a guarantee of PFL for mothers or fathers. Only 15% of private sector positions provide PFL, and low-SES workers have particularly low access (BLS, 2017). As a result, many parents return to work quickly following the birth of a child, which is associated with poorer child and parent outcomes (Berger, Hill, & Waldfogel, 2005; Ruhm, 2000). Recently, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island created family leave policies with partial wage replacement following the birth or adoption of a child, and more states and localities have recently passed laws or are considering new programs. The growing but relatively limited research on states’ PFL programs finds that access to paid parental leave increases mothers’ and fathers’ leave-taking and duration (Rossin-Slater, 2017) and suggests short- and mid-term benefits for children’s health (Klevens, Luo, Xu, Peterson, & Latzman, 2016; Lichtman-Sadot & Bell, 2017). Research conducted in Europe, where paid leaves have long been in place, suggest long-term health and educational outcomes (Carneiro, Loken, & Salvanes, 2011; Ruhm, 2000). To date, however, no studies have examined the effects of state-sponsored PFL in the United States on the quantity or quality of parent-child time, one mechanism via which PFL may affect child outcomes.

This study tests whether publicly sponsored paid family leave policies increase the time parents spend engaged in developmentally beneficial activities with children, both during infancy and as they age, and whether these effects vary by parent sex and family SES. In doing so, we shed light on the mechanisms through which such policies affect children’s educational outcomes and socioeconomic inequality.

We will use a difference-in-differences strategy using the 2003-2017 waves of the nationally representative American Time Use Survey (ATUS). The ATUS collects a 24-hour retrospective time diary from one individual age 15 or older per household from the existing sample of the Current Population Survey (CPS), provides information on all household members, and is linked to rich demographic, employment, education, and income data. Specifically, we will exploit the implementation of PFL programs in California (2004), New Jersey (2009), and Rhode Island (2014).

Findings will shed light on a potential strategy for narrowing SES achievement gaps, and how the effectiveness of such strategies varies across family characteristics. Results can inform the cities and states implementing PFL, including New York, Washington, and Washington, D.C.