Why aren’t new mothers taking their maternity leaves?
A new study has shown that number of would-be mothers taking maternity leave has remained stagnant despite many years of economic growth. According to it, more than half of maternity leaves taken by American mothers are unpaid, a figure that has proved slow to change.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggest that women who took maternity leave were economically better off than the typical mother -- as described in the data -- and were more likely to be married, white and more educated.
Researchers from Ohio State University in the US showed that about 273,000 women in the United States took maternity leave on average each month between 1994 and 2015, with no trend upwards or downwards.
Meanwhile, the number of men taking paternity leave increased from 5,800 men per month to 22,000 per month.
“Given the growing economy and the new state laws, I expected to see an increasing number of women taking maternity leave,” said study author Jay Zagorsky.
“There’s a lot of research that shows the benefits of allowing parents, especially mothers, to spend time with newborn children. Unfortunately, the number of women who receive those benefits has stagnated,” Zagorsky added.
The team used data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey conducted by the US Census Bureau.
Since 1993, most workers were covered by the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off during the first 12 months after birth to care for a newborn.
The results indicate that most women who took maternity leave were not paid -- only 47.5 percent were compensated in 2015.
Paid maternity leave is increasing, but only by 0.26 percentage points per year.
However, the study also found that count of fathers taking paternity leave has tripled than the number of mothers taking maternity leave.
Zagorsky said the best estimates from the data would be that somewhere around 10 percent of men and 40 percent of women take some time off.
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