A little over half of all American women with a child under 1 year of age were in the labor force in 2004.1 A child’s birth often requires changes in a mother’s work schedule.2 This report examines trends in maternity leave and the employment patterns of women who gave birth to their first child between January 1961 and December 2003.3
The analysis primarily uses retrospective fertility, employment, and maternity leave data from the 2004 panel of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), conducted in 2004.4 Previously published results based on similarly collected information from the 1984, 1985, 1996, and 2001 SIPP panels are also included.5
The report first analyzes trends in women’s work experience prior to their first birth and the factors associated with employment during pregnancy. Changes are placed in the historical context of the enactment of family-related legislation during the last quarter of the twentieth century. The next section identifies the maternity leave arrangements used by women before and after their first birth and the shifts that have occurred in the mix of leave arrangements that are used. The final section examines how rapidly mothers return to work after their first birth and the factors related to the length of time they are absent from the labor force.
In addition to updating childbearing, employment, and maternity leave trends through the 1990s, the report provides details on changes many new mothers experience in the number of hours worked, pay level, and job skill level after the first birth. These changes are examined in relation to whether a woman returned to the same employer she had during pregnancy or changed employer after the birth of the child.
1 Jane Lawler Dye, Fertility of American Women: June 2004, Current Population Reports, P20-555, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2005.
2 Mothers with infants consistently have both lower labor force participation rates and lower proportions working full-time than do mothers with older children. Jane Lawler Dye, Fertility of American Women: June 2004, Current Population Reports, P20-555, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2005.
3 The estimates in this report (which may be shown in text, figures, and tables) are based on responses from a sample of the population and may differ from the actual values because of sampling variability or other factors. As a result, apparent differences between the estimates for two or more groups may not be statistically significant. All comparative statements have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted.
4 The data in this report were collected from June through September 2004 in the second wave (interview) of the 2004 SIPP; from June through September 2001 in the second wave of the 2001 SIPP; from August through November 1996 in the second wave of the 1996 SIPP; from January through April 1986 in the fourth wave of the 1985 SIPP; and from January through March 1986 in the eighth wave of the 1984 SIPP. The population represented (population universe) is the civilian noninstitutionalized population living in the United States.
5 For more information on the previously published reports, see Martin O’Connell, “Maternity Leave Arrangements: 1961–85,” Work and Family Patterns of American Women, Current Population Reports, Series P-23, No. 165, Bureau of the Census, Washington, DC, 1990; Kristin Smith, Barbara Downs, and Martin O’Connell, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961–1995, Current Population Reports, P70-79, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2001; Julia Overturf Johnson and Barbara Downs, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961–2000, Current Population Reports, P70-103, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2005.
Below is the Source and Accuracy information from the Survey of Income and Program Participation:
Others in Series
Reasons People Do Not Work: 2004
This report examines characteristics of nonworkers, reasons they do not work, and connections between their characteristics and their reasons for not working.
Fluctuations in the U.S. Income Distribution, 2001–2003
This report uses the longitudinal data available from the SIPP to examine changes in the income of the same households between 2001 and 2003.
Living Arrangements of Children: 2004
This report examines the diversity of children’s living arrangements in American households.