Leave-taking and Labor Market Attachment Under California's Paid Family Leave Program: New Evidence From Administrative Data
AbstractLeave-Taking and Labor Market Attachment under California’s Paid Family
Leave Program: New Evidence from Administrative Data∗
Sarah Bana, Kelly Bedard, and Maya Rossin-Slater
More than half of American mothers and over 90 percent of American fathers of infants
under the age of one are employed in the labor market.1 Yet the United States remains
the only OECD country without a national paid family leave (PFL) policy, and only 12
percent of private sector workers have access to PFL through their employers.2
In July 2004,
California enacted the first state-level PFL policy that provides six weeks of leave with 55
percent of usual pay replaced (currently up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,137); since
then, three other states (New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York) have followed suit. We
use detailed administrative data from the California Employment Development Department
on nearly 2 million PFL claims over 2005-2014 linked to individual-level quarterly earnings
data to provide novel insights about California’s first-in-the-nation experience with PFL.
Our analysis delivers four key take-aways. First, we can precisely document trends in CAPFL
take-up separately for bonding with a new child (hereafter, “bonding”) and caring for
an ill family member (hereafter, “caring”). Our calculations suggest that about 40 percent
(4.5 percent) of employed new mothers (fathers) made a bonding claim in 2005, while 47
percent (12 percent) of employed new mothers (fathers) made a bonding claim in 2014.
Second, we find that low earning men and women are less likely to take leave than their
more advantaged counterparts, consistent with survey reports that too little pay serves as a
barrier for taking leave (Fass, 2009) and with polls suggesting that awareness of the program
is lowest among low-income voters (DiCamillo and Field, 2015). We also show that individuals
in firms with fewer than 50 employees—who are not concurrently eligible for unpaid
job protected leave with health insurance through the Family and Medical Leave Act—are
substantially under-represented in the PFL claims data, which may reflect their reluctancy
∗We gratefully acknowledge funding from the California Employment Development Department (Agreement
1According to data from the 2005-2014 American Communities Survey (ACS) data, 55 percent of mothers
with youngest children less than 1 year old and 90 percent of fathers with youngest children less than 1 year
old were employed. Note that the ACS data only include parents who reside with their children.
to take paid leave without job protection or health insurance. Additionally, although there
are no major differences in leave-taking rates across the most common industries for women,
there are important discrepancies for men. Men in retail, transportation, and health industries
are the most over-represented in the PFL claims data, while men in the construction
industry are most under-represented.
Third, we document that nearly all women who take bonding leave take the full six weeks
that are provided. Among men, only 24 percent of claimants take all six weeks of bonding
leave. As for caring leave duration, 31 percent of men and 36 percent of women take the full
Fourth, the vast majority of both men and women remain in the labor force after taking
PFL, and more than half—53 percent of women and 68 percent of men—return to their
We build on a small set of studies that uses survey data to analyze the effects of CA-PFL
(Rossin-Slater et al., 2013; Das and Polachek, 2015; Bartel et al., 2015; Baum and Ruhm,
2016; Stanczyk, 2016). Our analysis of administrative data can overcome several limitations
of these studies, which include small sample sizes, measurement error, non-response bias,
lack of panel data, and missing information on key variables such as PFL take-up and leave
duration. Although papers outside the U.S. have also used administrative data (see RossinSlater,
2017 for an overview), they analyze policies that offer leaves much longer than those
considered in U.S. policy discussions. If the impacts of leave are non-linear in duration
(Ruhm, 1998), then these estimates may have limited relevance for the current U.S. policy
climate. Moreover, the broader policy landscape likely matters for understanding the impacts
of PFL—a reform that expands PFL in a setting with subsidized child care and universal
health insurance is dramatically different from a setting where PFL may be introduced for
the first time and neither child care nor health insurance is guaranteed (as in the U.S. today).
Bartel, A., Rossin-Slater, M., Ruhm, C., Stearns, J. and Waldfogel, J. (2015).
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DiCamillo, M. and Field, M. (2015). Just 36% of voters aware of state’s paid family
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Fass, S. (2009). Paid Leave in the States A Critical Support for Low-wage Workers and
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Rossin-Slater, M. (2017). Maternity and Family Leave Policy. Working Paper 23069,
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Stanczyk, A. (2016). Does paid family leave improve household economic security following
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