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College-Educated Women and Non-Hispanic White Women More Likely to Work During First Pregnancy

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Roughly two-thirds of men who were fathers for the first time from 2016 to 2019 took some type of leave in the 12 weeks after their child was born, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

In 2019, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included questions regarding parental leave usage for the first time since the 2008 panel. And for the first time, both men and women were asked about their use of parental leave.

The percentage of women who worked when pregnant with their first child has increased over time.

Data are released for all individuals under age 65 who have at least one biological child. These data allow us to explore a range of topics, including women’s work patterns during pregnancy, leave usage by men and differences in the types of leave used by men and women.

Women Working During Pregnancy

The percentage of women who worked when pregnant with their first child has increased over time (Figure 1).

Between 1961 and 1965, 44.4% of women who gave birth for the first time worked during that pregnancy. Between 2016 and 2019, 66.4% of women worked during the pregnancy prior to the birth of their first child.

For first births after 2010, the percentage of pregnant women who worked differed across various sociodemographic characteristics (Figure 2):

  • 31.4% of women younger than age 20 and 74.0% of women ages 30 to 34 at the time of their first birth worked during the pregnancy.
  • Non-Hispanic White women (73.1%) were more likely to work during the pregnancy preceding their first birth than their counterparts in other race and origin groups (57.6% or less).
  • Women with a bachelor’s degree or higher (75.3%) were more likely to work during their first pregnancy than those with lower levels of educational attainment (68.2% or less).

Men Increasingly Take Time Off After Birth of First Child

Over time, an increasing percentage of men have taken leave during the 12 weeks following the birth of their first child (Figure 3).

In 1975 or earlier, 7.5% of men with first births took some form of leave. After 2015, 66.5% of first-time fathers took some form of leave.

Men Using Leave in the 12 Weeks After the Birth of Their First Child by Year of Birth


However, despite this increase, men are still significantly less likely to take some form of leave following the birth of their first child. Roughly 96% of women with first births after 2015 took some form of leave after their first child was born. 

Past reports have detailed how the patterns of women’s use of parental leave have evolved over time.

Parental Leave or Vacation Time?

Among first-time parents after 2010 who took leave during the 12 weeks following the birth, the types of leave used to cover the time off varied between men and women (Figure 4).

A higher share of women than men used paid parental leave — 44.8% and 33.1%, respectively. Similarly, women were more likely (39.3%) than men (16.5%) to use unpaid parental leave.

Meanwhile, a significantly larger share of men (35.1%) than women (9.9%) used paid vacation leave to cover their time off.

New Data

These findings highlight the value of these new data for analyzing parental leave patterns in the United States. More information about the SIPP and the new parental leave question sequence can be found on the SIPP website.


Zachary Scherer is a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division.


Page Last Revised - April 13, 2022
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