Do Maternity Leave Benefits Improve Mother’s Health at Old Age? Evidence from 11 European Countries during 1960-2010

Mauricio Avendano, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Harvard University
Lisa Berkman, Harvard University
Agar Brugiavini, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia
Giacomo Pasini, University of Venice

Maternity leave policies have been shown to improve long-term labor market outcomes for mothers. We assess whether paid maternity leave benefit policies have long-run, permanent effects on mothers’ health at old age. We link retrospective employment histories for women aged 50 and above from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to data on maternity leave legislation from 1960 to 2010 in 11 European countries. Based on a difference-in-differences approach, we find that eligibility to more weeks of fully paid benefits at the time of childbirth leads to better mental health at old age. Maternity leave benefits may also improve other dimensions of health such as physical functioning. Our study suggests that maternity leave benefits many not only improve children and maternal outcomes at the time of childbirth, but may also have long-run permanent effects on mother’s physical and mental health at old age.

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Presented in Session 208: Demographic Processes and Mental Health