Report: Women Working Later Into Pregnancy, Returning Sooner

Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2001 and 2003 worked during their pregnancy compared with just 44 percent who gave birth for the first time between 1961 and 1965, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report focusing on female workers and maternity leave over a span of 42 years.

The report, "Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961–2003," analyzes trends in women's work experience before their first child, identifies their maternity leave arrangements before and after the birth, and examines how rapidly they returned to work. Women are more likely to work while pregnant than they were in the 1960s, and they are working later into their pregnancies, the report shows. From 2001 to 2003, 80 percent who worked while pregnant worked one month or less before their child's birth compared with 35 percent who did so in 1961-1965. Women are also returning to work more rapidly after having their first child.

Among other highlights, the report shows that, from 2001 to 2003, 49 percent of first-time mothers who worked during pregnancy used paid leave before or after their child's birth, while 39 percent used unpaid leave. Twenty-five percent quit their jobs: 17 percent while they were pregnant and another 8 percent by 12 weeks after the child's birth. During the same time period, 43 percent of women used paid leave after their child's birth compared with 22 percent before their child's birth.

The report also shows that 60 percent of mothers with a bachelor's degree or more received paid leave benefits compared with 39 percent of mothers with a high school diploma and 22 percent of those who had less than a high school education. Eighty-three percent of mothers who worked during pregnancy and returned to work within a year of their child's birth returned to the same employer. Seven in 10 of these women returned to jobs at the same pay, skill level, and hours worked per week, according to the report.

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