Early Maternal Employment and Children's School Readiness: A Comparative Analysis Using Contemporary Birth Cohort Studies

Caitlin McPherran Lombardi, Boston College

This study assessed associations between early maternal employment and children’s school readiness skills across three countries with differing cultural norms and public policy environments: the U.S., Australia, and the U.K.. Using representative samples of children from each country born around 2000 (U.S. N=10,100; Australia N=5,093, U.K. N=18,497), OLS regression models weighted with propensity scores assessed links between maternal employment in the two years after childbearing and children’s school readiness skills after entry into formal schooling. There were mostly neutral associations between maternal employment and children’s school readiness in all three countries which were not differentiated by maternal time, stress, or wages. However, as non-maternal household income decreased, employment begun prior to 9 months was linked with higher cognitive skills in the U.S. while employment begun in the second year was linked with higher conduct problems in Australia. There was no evidence of moderation by non-maternal household income in the U.K.

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Presented in Session 224: Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Child Well-Being