Parental Leave and Child Health
This study investigates whether rights to paid parental leave improve pediatric health, as measured by birth weights and infant or child mortality. Aggregate data are used for nine European countries over the 1969 through 1994 period. Year and country fixed-effects are held constant and most specifications include additional covariates or control for country-specific time trends. Much of the analysis incorporates a natural experiments comparing changes in pediatric outcomes to those of senior citizens, whose health is not expected to be affected by parental leave. More generous leave rights are found to reduce deaths of infants and young children. The magnitudes of the estimated effects are substantial, especially for those outcomes where a causal effect of parental leave is most plausible. In particular, there is a much stronger negative relationship between leave durations and post-neonatal mortality or fatalities between the first and fifth birthday than for perinatal mortality, neonatal deaths, or the incidence of low birth weight. The evidence further suggests that parental leave may be a cost-effective method of bettering child health.