Honors Theses


Nancy Haskell, Ph.D.



Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis


On a national level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is the only law that provides certain qualifying individuals with 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected maternity leave, although some states and private firms have implemented forms of paid maternity leave. Previous research indicates that female employees, regardless of their parental status, receive fewer promotions due to information asymmetry after the FMLA (Thomas 2015). In addition, some research finds that particular industries are more family friendly due to access to flexible work schedules for mothers (Goldin 2014). This thesis expands on both findings using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys beginning in 1979 to capture the effects of maternity leave type and length on promotions. Results from differences-in-differences models show that having a child after the passage of the FMLA results in decreased unpaid leave and increased paid leave. Contrary to prior literature, we find no evidence that employers are promoting female employees less frequently after passage of the FMLA. Other models suggest there are negative effects on promotion when having a child, regardless of industry. However, there is no statistically significant evidence to suggest the negative effects of motherhood differ after passage of the FMLA. Our findings differ from prior literature in that the negative effects of the FMLA on career advancement appear to be confined only to the sub-sample of mothers working jobs for which maternity leave benefits were not previously available. Taken together, these results suggest that the FMLA may have been largely reactive to family friendly changes already occurring in the workplace structure, thus having little effect on the majority of firms and working women.

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Undergraduate research


Business | Economics