Understanding the Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Law on Maternal Health

Ann Bartel, Columbia Business School, Columbia University
Elizabeth Doran, Columbia University
Christopher Ruhm, University of Virginia
Jane Waldfogel , Columbia University

This paper exploits a natural experiment to provide causal evidence on the impact of California’s paid family leave (CA-PFL) law on maternal postpartum psychological distress (PPD). In 2004, California became the first state to enact paid family leave; no paid leave legislation exists federally. We use restricted data from the 2000 to 2010 National Health Interview Survey to examine the effects of CA-PFL on PPD for mothers with children under the age of one. We estimate synthetic control models, where changes in the outcomes in California before and after enactment of the PFL program are compared to corresponding changes over time in synthetic California. Estimates indicate mothers in California experienced a 27.6 percent reduction in mean PPD symptoms after the enactment of paid leave. They were also 9.0 (6.50) percentage points less likely to experience mild (moderate) forms of PPD. These results are robust to a variety of specifications.

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 Presented in Session 233. Families, Law, and Public Policy