Panel Paper: The Effect of Rhode Island’s Paid Family Leave Program on Child and Parent Health Outcomes

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

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Taryn Morrissey and Neko Michelle Castleberry, American University

The United States remains the only developed nation to not guarantee a period of paid leave for parents following the birth of a child, although parental leave is associated with better maternal and child health outcomes (e.g., Currie and Rossin-Slater, 2015). Longer periods of parental leave allow birth mothers to heal and parents to spend more time with their infants, thus influencing their own and their children’s well-being (Baum, 2003). Paid maternity leave predicts lower odds of infant hospitalization (Phil and Basso, 2018) and maternal re-hospitalization (Jou et. al., 2018). Mothers with longer parental leave are more likely to breastfeed (Currie and Rossin-Slater, 2015) and do so for longer than mothers who do not (Appelbaum & Milkman, 2011; Huang and Yang, 2015), and average fewer depressive symptoms (Chatterji and Markowitz, 2012; Chatterji, Markowitz, and Brooks-Gunn, 2013) and increased odds of exercising and managing stress (Jou et. al., 2018). Given that maternal mental health is an important determinant of a child’s health (Goodman and Gotlib, 1999; Propper, Rigg, Burgess, 2007) and parental stress can adversely affect the health and well-being of children (Berger and Waldfogel, 2011), improving parental health through paid family leave is another mechanism for improved children’s health.

In the absence of federal policy, several states, plus the District of Columbia, have implemented partially paid family leave laws. While research has focused on California’s paid family leave program and its impact on health outcomes (Baum and Ruhm, 2016; Rossin-Slater et al. 2013), little is known about Rhode Island’s paid family program, called Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program (TCI). Using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), a nationally representative survey measuring the health and well‐being of children and their families, this study examines how Rhode Island’s TCI affects the parental and child health outcomes. We use a difference-in-differences strategy to compare how health outcomes vary pre/post-paid family leave implementation and between Rhode Island and comparable northeastern states (N = 2,604). Preliminary results suggest reduced asthma diagnoses for children under age 2. Additionally, results suggest marginally significant effects on parental physical health and whether parents quit or greatly changed their job due to childcare problems. Future analyses will include additional measures of child and parent health and health care use and an expanded sample to test a broader range in child age.