Unwed Mom Factor Not in Maternity Leave Data

Article excerpt

Byline: Marybeth Hicks, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It's good news or bad news, depending on the headline. Last week, Census Bureau statistics on the percentage of working new mothers who receive paid maternity leave prompted two kinds of stories.

There's the glass is half full variety, such as this one from parents.com: Census Report: Over half of working mothers get paid leave. It came complete with a stock photo of a woman in a business suit sitting at her desk, holding a baby on her lap.

Then there's the glass is half empty style, such as the story from the Associated Press, headlined: Paid-leave benefits lagging for working moms in U.S.

The statistics in both stories are the same and indicate that from 2006 through 2008, more American working mothers than ever - 51 percent - received some sort of paid time off following the birth of their first child. The number of women who used some combination of paid maternity leave, sick time or vacation time to stay home with a newborn rose from 42 percent in the years between 1996 and 2000.

The report, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-time Mothers, 19612008, highlights several trends, including:

* Most women now work during pregnancy. Sixty-six percent of first-time moms worked while expecting, compared with44 percent 50 years ago.

* The vast majority of women who worked while pregnant - 82 percent - did so until within a month of delivery.

* Forty-two percent of women received unpaid maternity leave.

* Twenty-two percent of first-time moms quit their jobs - 16 percent while they were pregnant and another 6 percent within 12 weeks after their child's birth.

* Eight out of 10 mothers who worked during their pregnancy returned to work within a year of their child's birth to the same employer, most returning to a job at the same pay, skill level and hours worked per week. About 20 percent of working moms switched employers upon returning to work.

As you might imagine, the Census Bureau is able to carve up the data on working first-time moms into bite-size chunks, both obvious and obscure. …