NEWS BRIEF: Only 50 Percent of U.S. First-Time Mothers Receive Paid Leave

A new Census Bureau report shows that, from 2001-2008, the percentage of first-time mothers receiving paid leave before and after childbirth leveled off at a mere 50 percent. As usual, the most vulnerable women–low-income women, women of color, young women and less-educated women–had the least access to paid leave.

By the numbers:

  • 50.8 percent: From 2006-2008, the average percentage of working first-time mothers who took pregnancy or post-partum paid time off. This includes any paid comp time, including vacation and sick days as well as maternity leave.
  • 18 percent: Proportion of first-time mothers without a high school diploma who received paid leave in 2008.
  • 32 percent: Proportion of first-time mothers with just a high school diploma who received paid leave.
  • 4:1: The gap between paid leave eligibility for women who hold college degrees and those who do not; the largest in the 50 years that this data has been tracked.
  • 24 percent: Women under 22 who had access to paid leave. That number jumps to 66 percent for those over 25.
  • 46.6 percent: Hispanic women who received paid leave, the lowest of any group. 

Women with higher birth rates in the U.S. are often younger, less-educated and Hispanic. So, under this system, the women likely to have the most children are also least likely to have paid maternity leave available to them.

Keep in mind, too, that these numbers are pre-recession. Many of the jobs lost [PDF] during the recession were middle-class jobs such as teachers and managers, which are relatively likely to provide paid leave for soon-to-be and new mothers. The jobs added during the recovery process have been largely low-wage, far less likely to offer such paid leave.

In these tough economic times, employers have even less incentive to offer working women paid time off to care for themselves and their newborns. And in these woman-hating political times, the United States has no federal family paid leave plan to compel employers to offer leave (and Congressional attempts to enact one have been shut down).

Read more from the report here.

Sign a petition to support a federal mandate for paid family and medical leave here.

Photo from Flickr user familymwr under Creative Commons 2.0


Hey y’all! My name is Mimi Seldner, and I’m a 22 year old Ms. Magazine intern, writer, activist, artist, and English major at the University of Florida. My concentration is in Queer Theory, and this, as well as feminist theory and politics, human rights, and social justice issues inform my entire life, from my politics, to my art, to my writing (the three of which are usually interrelated). These issues, and my stubborn, assertive, and feet-dug-in, oil-striking stand on them also govern the ways in which I live my life. I’m wordy, witty, and willful, to say the least (a habit that I am not in, accordingly). I recently relocated from one sunshine state to the other (Florida to California), in order to pursue this amazing opportunity to intern at the feminist-force-to-be-reckoned-with, Ms. Magazine, in all her glory, and I am looking forward to inspired collaborations, and to creating many things imperatively worth creating. Also, there are free sticky notes.