Maternal employment and child development: A fresh look using newer methods

Jennifer L. Hill, Jane Waldfogel, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Wen Jui Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The employment rate for mothers with young children has increased dramatically over the past 25 years. Estimating the effects of maternal employment on children's development is challenged by selection bias and the missing data endemic to most policy research. To address these issues, this study uses propensity score matching and multiple imputation. The authors compare outcomes across 4 maternal employment patterns: no work in first 3 years postbirth, work only after 1st year, part-time work in 1st year, and full-time work in 1st year. Our results demonstrate small but significant negative effects of maternal employment on children's cognitive outcomes for full-time employment in the 1st year postbirth as compared with employment postponed until after the 1st year. Multiple imputation yields noticeably different estimates as compared with a complete case approach for many measures. Differences between results from propensity score approaches and regression modeling are often minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-850
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2005


  • Development
  • Imputation
  • Matching
  • Maternal employment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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