Insight /

30+ Maternity leave statistics

30+ Maternity leave statistics

The United States does not offer paid maternity leave, making it the only high-income country not to offer it. Maternity leave is a necessity. Numerous studies have shown the benefits that longer and paid maternity leave has on mothers and the development of children, as well as, the positive effects on the labor market.  

Paternity leave

  • Although some states have passed laws for paid paternity leavethe majority of states only give access to unpaid leave to fathers (Babycenter, 2019) 
  • Paid paternity leave is offered in four states: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York (Wikipedia) 
  • 94% of OECD countries have parental leave policies (Ohio State University) 
  • Fathers who take 2-week leave have better relationships with their children (Springer, 2019) 
  • Paternity leave improves parental relationships, leading to lower divorce rates (Ohio State University) 

Who has access to maternity leave?

  • One in four women (23%) were back to work after two weeks of giving birth (InTheseTimes, 2015) 
  • Only 13% of women in the private sector have any paid maternity leave (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016) 
  • 1 in 5 high-income workers (top 10% earner) get paid leave, and only 1 in 20 in the bottom quartile (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013) 
  • 80% of women with college degrees took a sixweek leave when their baby was born, but only 54% of women without college degrees did so (InTheseTimes, 2015) 
  • Workers in production, service jobs, and construction were the least likely to have access to paid family leave (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016) 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • 40% of women do not qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which grants 12 weeks on unpaid leave (Healthline) 
  • However, only 39% can afford to take FMLA leave (Diversitydatakids, 2020) 
  • Only mothers who work in companies with more than 50 employees, and have been employed at that same place for a year can qualify for the FMLA (Department of Labor, 2012) 
  • Low-waged and minority women are more likely to not be eligible for the FMLA, furthering their disadvantage (Nationalpartnership, 2016) 
  • The minimum recommended leave by the World Health Organization is 18 weeks (PubMed, 2014) 
  • The earliest a woman can start her maternity leave is in week 29 of her pregnancy (Howladerandco, 2015) 

Effects on the labor market

  • 65.6% of first-time mothers worked during their pregnancy (IMPAQ, 2017) 
  • Mothers who used paid leave had only a 2.6% probability of quitting their job and a 92.3% probability of returning to the same employer after birth (IMPAQ, 2017) 
  • In comparison, mothers who did not utilize paid leave had a 34.3% probability of quitting their job and a 73.3% of working for the same employer post-birth (IMPAQ, 2017) 
  • 87% of employers reported that their costs did not increase because of paid leave, and 9% reported that their costs decreased because of decreased turnover (Researchgate, 2012) 
  • Women without paid maternity leave are more likely to drop out of the workforce (Vanderbilt, 2013) 
  • Voters from all political parties support national paid leave (Nationalpartnership, 2016) 

Foreign Comparison

  • A study of 168 countries showed that 163 guarantee paid leave for mothers, and 45 guarantee paid leave for fathers (National Partnership) 
  • The average paid maternity leave in OECD countries is just over 18 weeks, the US is the only OECD country not to offer it (OECD, 2019) 
  • The United States does not offer paid maternity leave on the federal level, making it the only high-income country not to offer it (Healthline) 

Effects on health and development

  • Women who took paid maternity leave experienced a 47% decrease in the odds of infant and maternal re-hospitalization (PubMed, 2018) 
  • Maternity leave of 25 weeks or more is associated with lower child mortality rate and better mental health for mothers (International Journal of Public Health, 2007) 
  • Studies suggest that maternal employment during the child’s first year has negative effects on child cognitive development (NBER, 2000) 
  • Infants whose mothers are working within 12 weeks are more likely to have behavioral problems, less likely to be breastfed, less likely to get regular doctor checkups (Slate, 2011) 

Research has shown that paid maternity leave increases employee retention and nurtures a more productive and healthier workforce for generations to come.