Women with Access to Leave
Benefit from Higher Wages and Better Employment Outcomes
Immediate Release: April 6, 2005
Erskine, 202-293-5380 x115
Washington, DC - Mothers with access to maternity leave earn more as they move
through their careers, according to a new study by the Center for Economic and
Policy Research (CEPR).
The study, "Family-Friendly Policies: Boosting Mothers'
found that wages of mothers who worked prior to the birth of their first child
and received paid maternity leave were 9 percent higher than mothers who had not
taken leave (controlling for other factors).
"An early investment in women - giving them access to a break from work
for the birth of their child - pays off in higher lifetime earnings and better
employment outcomes," said Heather Boushey, CEPR economist and author of
Over their lifetimes, women earn less than half of what men earn. The lack of
family-friendly policies and the presence of children contribute to women's
lower lifetime earnings. Most women must "self-finance" for the birth
of their child -- taking unpaid leave or quitting their jobs. Providing
universal access to leave could help close the gap in women's pay and enable
more women to stay in the labor market over time.
"Providing paid leave for new mothers is relatively cheap," said
Boushey. "In California, every worker now has access to six weeks of paid
leave. The program, which went into effect in June 2004, is funded by a payroll
tax that costs about $50 per worker annually."
The report also examined the impact of flexible schedules on wages and job
tenure. Flexible schedules allow workers to balance work responsibilities with
family commitments, such as caring for children or aging parents. Rather than
lowering wages, flexible schedules had no effect on earnings, according to the
study. However, few women (less than one-third) have access to a flexible
"Relying on the goodwill of employers has meant that many workers,
especially low-wage workers, do not have access to any kind of
flexibility," said Boushey. "A restrictive workplace is not an
individual problem, it's a threat to all families and should be addressed with