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Study: No Paycheck for Nearly Half of All New Moms

February 13, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - Nearly half of all new U.S. mothers are giving up a paycheck in order to spend time with their new baby, according to a new analysis from the Census Bureau. While the number of working moms who receive paid leave is on the rise, some say better policies are needed to support children and families.

The report finds that 51 percent of working women who had their first birth from 2006 through 2008 received paid leave, compared with 42 percent in previous years. While that is an increase, Ohio University associate sociology professor Cindy Anderson points out that in order to stay home longer, most women have to get creative about their leave strategies.

"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."

Trends in the past 30 years indicate that women are working later into their pregnancies and returning more rapidly after having their first child, according to the report. Anderson says the reason many women choose to spend more time in the workforce is career-oriented and out of 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, but Anderson says that's unpaid time and only applies to companies with more than 50 employees. She thinks better policies are needed to support 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."

Access to paid leave varies with a woman's age, hours worked and education, the report found. Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than are college graduates to have no maternity benefits. Unlike most countries, the United States lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, and past efforts at legislation have been unsuccessful.

About 25 babies are born in North Dakota each day.

The report is online at census.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND