Journal Article

Selection into maternity leave length and long-run maternal health in Germany

Bister, L., Eibich, P., Rutigliano, R., Kühn, M., van Hedel, K.
Journal of Social Policy , 1–20 (2023)
Open Access


Existing literature shows the importance of maternity leave as a strategy for women to balance work and family responsibilities. However, only a few studies focused on the long-run impact of maternity leave length on maternal health. Therefore, how exactly they are related remains unclear. We examine women’s selection into different lengths of maternity leave as a potential explanation for the inconclusive findings in the literature on the association between maternity leave and maternal health. This study aims to unravel the association between maternity leave length and mothers’ long-term health in Germany. Drawing on detailed data from the German Statutory Pension Fund (DRV), we estimated the association between maternity leave length and sick leave from 3 years following their child’s birth for 4,243 women living in Germany in 2015 by applying discrete-time logistic regression. Our results show a negative relationship between maternity-leave length and long-term maternal health, likely driven by negative health selection. Long maternity leaves of more than 24 months were associated with worse maternal health in the long run, while a positive association emerged for vulnerable women with pre-existing health problems.

Keywords: Germany, maternal and child health, maternity leave
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.