Maternity Leave Duration and Maternal Health in the Long Run: The Role of Selection for First-Time Mothers in Germany

Lara Bister , University Of Groningen
Peter Eibich, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Roberta Rutigliano, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Mine Kühn, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Karen van Hedel, Utrecht University

The increasing female labour force participation leads to problems in reconciling family and work. This multiple commitment could result in role conflicts of motherhood and employment and have a negative impact on maternal distress and health. Maternity leave is a reconciliation strategy that mitigates this effect. Research has shown positive association of maternity leave duration and mothers’ health outcomes but also differences in the selection mechanisms into maternity leave spells. Little attention has been paid to the relationship between maternity leave and maternal health in the German context, which is characterised by low fertility levels, traditional parenting models and generous maternity leave entitlements. The present research investigates the association between the selection into different maternity leave durations and first-time mothers’ health outcomes in Germany. Using detailed German Statutory Pension Fund administrative panel data, we apply logistic event history analysis to estimate the relationship between maternity leave lengths and the probability of sickness occurrence among women (N = 4,237). Results show that the probabilities of sickness occurrence increase with maternity leave durations. After interacting women’s characteristics with the leave duration, both high-income and pre-conception-sickness mothers have the highest probabilities of sickness occurrence, while average mothers and mothers with reduced working hours indicate comparatively lower probabilities across the maternity leave lengths. Moreover, the probability of getting sick over time remains higher for mothers with longer maternity leaves. Our analysis shows that selection into maternity leave plays a major role in explaining the relationship between maternity leave durations and women’s health outcomes.

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 Presented in Session 90. Work-Life Balance, Parenthood, and Health