Relatively little is known about the role that leave policies—family,parental, or maternity-leave policies—play in facilitating time off work after childbirth. Yet time off is a critical element of leave policies, as it facilitates the mother's recovery from childbirth and promotes maternal-infant attachment. Using data from Minnesota, the state with the highest rate of female labor force participation, we examine the extent to which policies,relative to personal, job, and workplace characteristics, determine the duration of women's childbirth-related leaves from work. A random sample of women identified from vital statistics records is used to estimate the relationship between leave policies and time off work after childbirth. Of our sample 85 percent had access to some paid leave benefits, although only 46 percent had paid maternity leave benefits. The difference in duration of leave between women with and without paid leave policies was approximately four weeks, a substantial difference for most women and their infants. Paid leave policies and spousal earnings as primary determinants of maternal time off work, suggest problems in the use of unpaid leave for economically vulnerable women.

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