The Impact of Subsidized Child Care and Paid Family Leave on Parents’ Work Performance, Career Advancement, and Health

Publication Date


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


The number of working parents in the US has dramatically increased over the past few decades (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Yet, federal-level policies to assist working parents remain sparse. The US is the only developed country that does not provide parents paid time off after childbirth (OECD, Social Policy Division, 2017), and high-quality, affordable child care is remarkably difficult to find (Malik et al., 2018; Pew Research Center, 2015).

My proposed study adds to a small but growing research base on the effects of access to affordable child care and paid parental leave on families. Specifically, I consider the effects these policies may have on parents themselves, a largely understudied area (Rossin-Slater & Uniat, 2019). In collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Heissel at the Naval Postgraduate School, I draw on rich data from the US Department of Defense (DoD) to evaluate how the transition to parenthood impacts both mothers’ and fathers’ health and work outcomes. I then explore whether better access to DoD subsidized child care or longer fully paid family leave after a birth effectively improves (or possibly diminishes) parental health and work productivity.

The research expands beyond past research on labor market attachment and wage measures. Instead, I examine actual job performance, career progress, and health as human capital to understand how home life shapes employees’ contributions to an organization, and how policies that support family life impact firms.