NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Returns to Nursing: Evidence from a Parental Leave Program

Benjamin U. Friedrich, Martin B. Hackmann

NBER Working Paper No. 23174
Issued in February 2017
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

Nurses comprise the largest health profession. In this paper, we measure the effect of nurses on health care delivery and patient health outcomes across sectors. Our empirical strategy takes advantage of a parental leave program, which led to a sudden, unintended, and persistent 12% reduction in nurse employment. Our findings indicate detrimental effects on hospital care delivery as indicated by an increase in 30-day readmission rates and a distortion of technology utilization. The effects for nursing home care are more drastic. We estimate a persistent 13% increase in nursing home mortality among the elderly aged 85 and older. Our results also highlight an unintended negative consequence of parental leave programs borne by providers and patients.

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A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2017 number 2 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23174

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