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In the early 1990s, both state and federal governments enacted maternity-leave legislation. The key provision of that legislation is that after a leave of a limited duration, the recent mother is guaranteed the right to return to her preleave employer at the same or equivalent position. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors correlate work status after childbirth with work status before pregnancy to estimate the prevalence, before the legislation, of returns to the preleave employer. Among women working full-time before the pregnancy, return to the prepregnancy employer was quite common. Sixty percent of women who worked full-time before the birth of a child continued to work for the same employer after the child was born. Furthermore, the labor market behavior of most of the remaining 40,016 suggests that maternity-leave legislation is unlikely to have a major effect on job continuity. Compared with all demographically similar women, however, new mothers have an excess probability of leaving their jobs.

Originally published in: Demography, v. 36, no. 2, May 1999, pp. 145–155.

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