Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay

Claire Cain Miller – New York Times – Tuesday, 29 July 2014 (originally published 28 Jul)

Dana Hehl with her 5-week-old daughter
Dana Hehl, who is on maternity leave, with her 5-week-old daughter, Isobel, on Sunday in San Francisco. California was the first state to offer paid parental leave. The policy increases the likelihood that a woman will stay in the work force after having children. Image: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

A mysterious fact that economists are wrestling with is that the percentage of women in the United States who are working or want to work has been declining, after a decades-long climb.

The drop is small (and less dramatic than the decline of men in the labor force) but is contributing to a dip in overall labor force participation, which policy makers see as an impediment to economic recovery.

A series of changes helped women enter the work force in the last three decades of the 20th century, including the Civil Rights Act, the earned-income tax credit, the birth control pill and technology in the home. But then participation began to drop — even as women in some cases became more qualified workers than men (women earn 59 percent of higher education degrees, for instance) . . .

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