We study how the duration of paid parental leave affects the accumulation of cognitive skills among children. Using a reform which extended parental leave benefits from 12 to 15 months for Swedish children born after August 1988 we evaluate the effects of prolonged parental leave on children’s test scores and grades at age 16.
We show that, on average, the reform had no effect on children’s scholastic performance. However, we do find positive effects for children of well-educated mothers, a result that is robust to a number of different specifications.
Two caveats. First, the alternative in Sweden is pretty good: subsidized day care. Second, there could be diminishing returns. I imagine the first six months of leave matter more than the 13th to 15th months.
When my wife started her position at a humanitarian organization, she and the other new execs were told that maternity leave could be taken… out of their accumulated sick days. Her fellow new colleague, from Ireland, leaned across the desk to the HR person: “Pregnancy,” she said “is not a sickness.”