Seminar: The long-run effect of maternity leave benefits on mental health

Wednesday 3 February, 13:00-14:30 in Room K.6.63King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London.

Dr Mauricio Avendano (Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London) will present his work on “The long-run effect of maternity leave benefits on mental health: Evidence from European countries”.

Abstract: Social policies can have unanticipated health consequences. Studies on the earned income tax credit, the US welfare reform and the food stamp programme show that although these policies were not motivated by health concerns, they have both negative and positive health consequences. During the second half of the 20th Century, most high-income countries enacted comprehensive maternity leave legislation that provided women the right to a period of job-protected leave around childbirth, but whether this social policy has any long-term health effects has not been established. This paper examines whether maternity leave policies enacted during this period had long-term effects on the health of women who benefited and are now reaching older age. We link data for women aged 50 years and above from countries in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to data on maternity leave legislation from 1960 onwards. We use a difference-in-differences approach that exploits changes over time within countries in the duration and compensation of maternity leave benefits, linked to the year women were giving birth to their first child at age 16 to 25.We compare late-life depressive symptom scores (measured with a 12-item version of the Euro-D scale) of mothers who were in employment in the period around the birth of their first child to depression scores of mothers who were not in employment in the period surrounding the birth of a first child, and therefore did not benefit directly from maternity leave benefits. We find evidence that maternity leave policies yield significant mental health benefits for working mothers, which extend beyond the period of birth and persist into older age. Our findings suggest that a more generous maternity leave during the birth of a first child is associated with a reduced score of 0.38 points in the Euro-D depressive symptom scale in old age.

Mauricio Avendano is Reader in Global Ageing at the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine at King’s College London. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor at the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the Harvard School of Public health. Dr. Avendano’s research focuses on understanding the health impact of social policies using longitudinal survey and registry data. His research has examined the health impacts of maternity leave policies, unemployment benefit programmes, work flexibility policy, cash transfer programmes and pensions. Part of his work also explores the causes of cross-national differences in health and mortality between the US and other high-income countries, and the role of social disparities and social policies in explaining these differences. His work tries to integrate econometric and epidemiological approaches to improve causal inference. Dr. Avendano has been awarded several grants including a European Research Council grant (ERC, 2011-2016) to examine the long-run effect of macro-economic shocks on health. He is currently co-investigator in several grants including a major EU-collaborative project to examine the impact of income support policies on health, and an international collaboration to study the impact of urban policies on health across Europe and North America. He has been awarded grants from the European Commission, the Dutch Scientific Council, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and National Institute on Ageing, and the McArthur Foundation. He has published more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed international journals.

All are welcome – no registration.

For more information about the SSHM Seminar Series, please visit: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/sshm/research/RSS.aspx

 

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