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First-time mother's return to the work force.

First-time mother's return to the work force The employment status prior to a woman's first pregnancy is probably the most influential factor in her decision to return to work after childbirth. The type of maternity leave arrangement also influences the decision. These conclusions are from a Bureau of the Census study of the results of retrospective answers of 9,000 women who participated in the 1984 and 1985 Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Patterns of work and leave were different for women who had their first births in the 1961-65 period and those who had their first births in the 1981-85 perio. In the 1961-65 group, 60 percent had worked for 6 or more consecutive months before having their first child; in the 1981-85 group, 75 percent had done so.

Since the 1960's, the majority of employed pregnant women have been working full-time--between 80 and 90 percent worked 35 hours or more per week at the last job they had before their child's birth. Women also have been working longer into their pregnancies. Between 1981 and 1985, 30 percent of pregnant workers stayed on the job longer than 8 months into their pregnancies, compared with 10 percent of mothers-to-be in the 1961-65 period.

Along with their higher rates of employment for pregnant workers was an increase in the amount of maternity leave benefits available and being used. In the 1960's, 16 percent of mothers reported receiving maternity benefits, 14 percent reported receiving unpaid leave of absence, and 5 percent were termindated; the majority -- 60 percent -- voluntarily quit their jobs. By the 1988's, the percentage of first-time mothers who reported receiving maternity benefits increased to 47 percent, and the percentage who voluntarily quit decreased to 28 percent. Since the early 1970's about 20 percent have reported receiving unpaid leave of absence. The proportion terminated has remained at about 5 percent since the 1960's.

A trend of growing labor force attachment among mothers is also evident. Only a small percentage of first-time mothers in the 1970's were working by the third month after childbirth; by the 1980's, one-third of first-time mothers were working by the third month, and slightly more than one-half had returned to work within 1 years. In the 1960's 16 percent of first-time mothers were working 1 year after childbirth; one-third had entered or re-entered the labor force 5 years after childbirth.

Between 1981 and 1985, the labor force activities of first-time mothers varied widely by age. Twice as many 18-to 21-year-olds quit their jobs during pregnancy than did those 25 years and other (42 percent versus 21 percent). Only 20 percent if 18-ti 19-year-olds received maternity benefits, as opposed to almost 60 percent of women 25 and older. Teenage mothers were more likely to have been terminated from than were older mother.

In the 1980's, no difference in race was noted regarding maternity benefits or terminations. However, in the 1960's, pregnant white women were more likely to quit their jobs and, consequenlty, less likely to receive maternity benefits than were pregrant black women, who typically kept their jobs. For most of the years studied, pregnant black women, generally were more likely to be involuntarily terminated from their jobs than were pregnant white women. No difference was noted in leave arrangement by marital status.

The full paper, "Maternity Leave Arrangements 1961-1985," by Martin O'Connell of the Fertility Statistics Branch, Bureau of the Census, was presented at the 1989 meeting of the American Statistical Association.
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Title Annotation:Research summaries
Author:Lande, Laurie B.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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