Does Paid Family Leave Cause Mothers to Have More Children? Evidence from California


Literature on the labor market and health effects of paid family leave largely overlooks the impacts on fertility, particularly in the United States. Increased childbearing following the introduction of a modest paid family leave policy in the U.S. could explain the contrasting short-term gains and long-term losses in women’s labor market outcomes found in recent work. We exploit the nation’s first paid family leave program, implemented in California in 2004. Using the universe of U.S. births and a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that access to leave increases fertility by 2.8 percent, driven by higher order births to mothers in their 30s as well as Hispanic mothers and those with a high school degree. Our results are robust to corrective methods of inference, including synthetic controls. Our findings may inform the discussion of a national paid family leave policy.

Journal of Labor Research
Pamela Meyerhofer
Pamela Meyerhofer

I am an Economist at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). My research is centered on how women make decisions about work and family and how policy impacts these decisions. My work lies at the intersection of labor economics, health economics, family demography, and policy.