Poster Paper: The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave on Children's Birth Outcomes

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Feng Chen, Tulane University

Over the past decades, the United States has witnessed increasing changes in family structure, the labor force market, and demographic distribution. The federal government and some states have taken different avenues in the way to help working mothers balance career and family in the form of family leave policies. California is the first state to provide Paid Family Leave (CA-PFL) to eligible workers, substantially increasing access to postnatal paid leave for working mothers. Precautionary saving theory suggests that pregnant women in leave-taking constraint are likely to increase their leave-taking of vacation or sick leave before childbirth due to the availability of paid family leave after childbirth, recent literature also confirmed that mothers in California take around one extra week of leave before childbirth after CA-PFL. Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation verified that mothers in California take 2.4% more paid vacation leave before childbirth due to the availability of CA-PFL. The leave from work before childbirth may reduce maternal physical and mental stress which has been shown to have adverse effects on infant endowments of human capital, as measured by birth outcomes such as birth weight and gestational age. Also, mothers who take antenatal leave tend to begin prenatal care earlier or have more doctor visits to reduce the risk of adverse birth outcomes. In this study, I use natality data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics and a Difference-in-Difference method to evaluate the impacts of paid family leave program of California on children’s birth outcomes. The intention-to-treat results show that California’s paid family leave decreases the share of premature births by 0.5 percentage points or 5.2 percent, and these effects are particularly large on the children of unmarried and black mothers.