Just how important is Mom during a child’s first year of life? A new working paper by the economists Pedro Carneiro, Katrine V. Løken, and Kjell G. Salvanes exploits a recent reform in Norway to answer that question. The reform, which increased paid and unpaid maternity leave, “increased maternal leave on average by 4 months,” but had no effect on family income. The authors found that more time with Mom led to lower high school dropout rates later on.
Specifically, “increased time with the child led to a 2.7 percentage points decline in high school dropout. For mothers with low education we find a 5.2 percentage points decline. The effect is especially large for children of mothers who prior to the reform, would take very low levels of unpaid leave.”
Our current “welfare reform” requires that mothers to receive government help have to WORK outside the home, but that means they spend less time with their children. Granted that welfare from the state is not a good thing–before, it encouraged poor women not to get married by cutting payments when they did, thus encouraging single parenthood–but when it exists, shouldn’t it try to be in some way pro-family? Rather than contribute and even pay for the dynamics that increase poverty?