The U.S. lags far behind other countries in public policies that support parents in the crucial first days, weeks, and months of a child's life. Most notably, the U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee a period of paid and job-protected leave for new parents. As a result, paid family leave coverage is both limited and highly unequal. This situation, however, is beginning to change, as California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island and a handful of U.S. cities now have paid family leave (PFL) programs.
Focusing on California, this study will examine the effects of the law on: breast-feeding; receipt of well-baby care and immunizations; and maternal mental health. It will analyze large, nationally representative datasets, using econometric procedures to determine causal impacts.
This research will obtain information on whether work-family policies, such as PFL, promote a Culture of Health and reduce disparities. This evidence will be important as other states and Congress consider additional legislation in this area.
California was the first state to enact a paid family leave entitlement in 2002, providing eligible workers up to six weeks of paid leave. Jessica E. Pac, Ann P. Bartel, and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University, and Christopher J. Ruhm of the University of Virginia evaluated the effect of the policy on breastfeeding in this National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper.