Unemployment Insurance for Becoming Mothers: Protecting Newborn Health If Fathers Can´t?

Dorian Kessler , Bern University of Applied Sciences
Debra Hevenstone, Bern University of Applied Sciences

It is well-documented that the unemployed who receive more generous unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) have better health than the unemployed with less generous benefits. Yet, three important aspects of the association between UIB and health remain unknown. First, even though such knowledge is crucial for policy design, it is unclear how much more generous benefits improve the health of the unemployed. Second, despite fundamental changes in household economics in the last decades, we know little about the extent to which UIB health effects depend on the economic resources of the partners of the unemployed. Third, the detrimental health consequences of unemployment are known to extend to family members. However, it is yet to be shown that UIB protects the health of those close to the unemployed. Drawing on a quasi-experimental variation of the potential benefit duration (PBD) in Switzerland and uniquely tailored administrative data, this study addresses these knowledge gaps by asking a) whether shorter UIB reduce the birth weight of children of unemployed women and b) whether such effect is buffered by fathers’ income. We find that the reduction of PBD from 400 to 260 daily allowances reduced children’s birth weight by more than 130 grams if their fathers had incomes below subsistence levels, but had no effect on all other newborns. The study shows that extended access to UIB protects the health of the unemployed and their children in households who lack alternative economic resources.

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 Presented in Session 46. Policies on Parental Leave