Maternity Leave and Mothers' Long-Term Sickness Absence - Evidence from Germany

46 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2015

See all articles by Nicole Gürtzgen

Nicole Gürtzgen

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research

Karsten Hank

University of Cologne

Date Written: November 15, 2014

Abstract

Exploiting unique German administrative data, we estimate the association between an expansion in maternity leave duration from two to six months in 1979 and mothers’ post-birth long-term sickness absence over a period of three decades after childbirth. Using a regression discontinuity design, we first show that the leave extension caused mothers to significantly delay their return to work within the first year after childbirth. We then compare the number and length of spells of long-term sickness absence of returned mothers who gave birth before and after the change in leave legislation. Our findings suggest that among those returned, mothers subject to the leave extension exhibit a higher incidence of long-term sickness absence as compared to control mothers. This also holds true after controlling for observable differences in pre-birth illness histories. At the same time, there are no pronounced effects on mothers’ medium-run labor market attachment following the short-run delay in return to work, which might rationalize a negative causal health effect. Breaking down the results by mothers’ pre-birth health status suggests that the higher incidence of long-term sickness absence among the treated may be explained by the fact that the reform has facilitated re-entry of a negative health selection into the labor market.

Keywords: Maternity leave policies, health, administrative data, regression discontinuity design

JEL Classification: J10, J16; J18

Suggested Citation

Guertzgen, Nicole and Hank, Karsten, Maternity Leave and Mothers' Long-Term Sickness Absence - Evidence from Germany (November 15, 2014). ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 14-109, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2555483 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2555483

Nicole Guertzgen (Contact Author)

ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research ( email )

P.O. Box 10 34 43
L 7,1 D-68161 Mannheim
Germany

Karsten Hank

University of Cologne ( email )

Albertus-Magnus-Platz
Cologne, 50923
Germany

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