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The Impacts of US Workplace Breastfeeding Legislation on Mothers’ and Fathers’ Workplace Absenteeism




Speaker: Surya Singh, PhD student, Imperial College London Business School


Employee absenteeism costs employers in the US up to $225.8 billion annually. One of the main drivers of absenteeism can be attributed to the push and pull between work and family responsibilities. Therefore, states have implemented a number of family-friendly policies to reduce employee absenteeism. In this paper, we assess the impact of one such policy, namely workplace breastfeeding legislation allowing mothers to express milk within the workplace.

This policy has been implemented in 25 out of 51 states in the US since 1995, enabling a better environment for breastfeeding in the workplace. The selective and staggered introduction of the policy across states allows us to identify the causal impact of the policy using quasi-experimental methods such as difference-in-differences. Additionally, through use of difference-in-difference-in-differences, we exploit within-state variation, as certain individuals are not affected by the policy within states. Exploiting variation across states on the type of legislation, we further assess whether the policy impact varies with its level of enforceability.

We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics over the period of 1990-2011. We hypothesize that US workplace breastfeeding legislation has an effect on mothers and may also have an effect on fathers due to interdependencies in spousal labour supply and intra-household bargaining with respect to absenteeism. We find that mothers with infants are between 9 to 10 fewer days absent per year as a result of the policy, depending on the control group. This result is mainly driven by states that have strict enforceability of policies. Once we split the treatment group, mothers with infants residing in states with strict enforceability have up to 16 fewer absent days as a result of the policy while there is no impact on absent days for mothers residing in states with weak enforceability. We do not find a spillover effect on fathers. Our findings provide evidence that workplace breastfeeding policies can reduce workplace absenteeism among mothers, alleviate gender inequality within the workplace, and improve gender diversity within firms.

About the speaker

Surya Singh is a PhD student in Health Economics and Health Management at Imperial College Business School. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Integrative Biology and a minor in Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. She has also studied international public health at the University of Copenhagen and holds a Master of Public Health degree from Imperial College London. Her PhD thesis investigates the impacts of workplace family-friendly policies such as breastfeeding and maternal leave legislation on health and labour force outocmes using microeconometric methods. Her research interests lie in health economics, management, and global health policy specifically focusing on maternal and child health in high to middle income countries.

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When and where

12.30pm - 2.00pmMonday 25th February 2019

MG26 Myddelton Street Building City, University of London 1 Myddelton Street London EC1R 1UW United Kingdom