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Study: No Paycheck for Nearly Half of All New Moms

December 8, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly half of working moms are cutting short the time they spend with their new infants so they can get back to their paying jobs.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 51 percent of working women who had their first child from 2006 through 2008 received paid leave, compared with 42 percent in previous years. While that's an increase, says Cindy Anderson, associate professor of sociology at Ohio University, in order to stay home longer, most women have to be creative to implement a leave strategy.

"They have to plan ahead so that they can cobble together vacation days, sick days, if they have any maternity leave, maybe short-term disability. But most companies are not offering maternity leave."

Access to paid leave varies with age, hours worked and education, the report found. Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to not have maternity benefits. Unlike most developed countries, the United States lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, and efforts to pass such a law have so far been unsuccessful.

Trends in the last 30 years indicate that a woman works later into her pregnancy and returns more rapidly after having her first child, according to the report. The reason many women choose to spend more time in the workforce is career-oriented, Anderson says, but it's also an economic necessity.

"At the same time that women have been working more, we've seen a need for dual-earner families, where both the women and men are actually earning money just to be able to maintain a reasonable economic level for their family."

The Family Medical Leave Act allows a new mom or dad to stay home for up to 12 weeks. However, Anderson says, that's unpaid time and only applies to companies with more than 50 employees. She says better policies are needed to support working families.

"Definitely the state and the federal government, too, need to look at the way we value children, and motherhood, and parenting and family leave."

The report is online at census.gov.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN