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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

M. V. Lee Badgett

Second Advisor

Marta Murray-Close

Third Advisor

Joya Misra

Subject Categories

Labor Economics | Other Economics | Public Economics


Many American families have a difficult time balancing their obligations at work with their responsibilities at home. This is especially the case when a member of the family needs an increased level of care giving, for instance after the birth of a child or when a family member is seriously ill. Governments around the world have passed legislation to make these difficult times easier for workers by mandating that employers provide paid family leave to their employees. However the US federal government mandates only 12 weeks of job-protected leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which only covers approximately 60% of US workers and is unpaid. The result is that US workers and families are often unable to take leave when they experience increased responsibilities at home. Proponents of expanding FMLA to include a wage replacement provision argue it would increase a worker’s ability to stay home when there is an increase need for caregiving. It would also make the ability to take leave more equal across all workers. And while a number of political movements, on both the state and federal level, have sought to expand FMLA to include a paid provision, most have been unsuccessful due to the strong opposition it faces. Opponents argue that paid family leave mandates will place additional costs on employers, and therefore cause a decrease in employment and wages, especially for women who will be labeled as “risky” workers since they are more likely to take leave compared to their male counterparts. Up until recently it was impossible to test this “job killer” hypothesis, since no paid leave mandates existed in the US. However this changed in 2002 when California passed the first-of-its-kind paid maternity leave legislation. This provides us with a natural experiment to study how paid leave mandates would impact labor markets in the US, as well as study its impact on different family types. Chapter 2 uses establishment level employment data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to study the impact California’s policy has had on employment. Most model specifications revealed a positive and significant impact on CA employment, with the policy being correlated with an approximately 2% increase in establishment level employment. In other model specifications the law had a positive but insignificant effect. These findings would suggest that at worst CA’s paid family leave mandate was a non-event for establishments in the state, and at best it had positive impact on employment. Chapter 3 examines how CA’s policy impacted the wages of workers using data from the Current Population Survey. The analysis shows that the policy is correlated with a modest but positive increase in wages for all workers. It was also shown that women saw a more dramatic increase in their wages, which suggests that the policy has not lead to an increase in statistical discrimination as some opponents feared. Chapter 4 looks at the behavior of non-traditional households by analyzing the maternity leave behavior of women with different relationship statuses. Using both CPS data as well as NLSY97 data this analysis shows that new mothers in cohabiting household behave differently than their married counterparts when it comes to maternity leave, taking significantly shorter leaves and working more hours in the year of birth. The results suggest that their partner’s income is not a significant factor in determining their incidence and length of leave. However having access to paid leave increases their willingness and ability to take leave.