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posted on 20.08.2020by Henrik-Alexander Schubert
Childbearing is often associated with employment interruptions in women’s careers. Since 2005, the German federal government has implemented childcare reforms aiming at expanding the suitable infrastructure for children under the age of three, which should facilitate and accelerate the return to employment. The reforms have been a paradigm shift, because they show a shift from a traditional breadwinner family model to a dual earner-carer model. Despite federal leadership in childcare reforms, the characteristics of the care infrastructure in Germany vary by state and over time, which may contribute to different employment-interruption lengths. The study at hand evaluates Germany’s recent childcare reforms regarding the impact on maternal employment by examining relationships between childcare-characteristics -namely quality and availability- and mothers’ employment interruptions. A piecewise-constant exponential model is used to capture the cross-state and over time differences in childcare and their impact on the timing of women’s return to employment within the first three years after birth of their first child. The study uses individual data from the Pairfam 10.0 study and childcare indicators, which are collected by the federal and state’s statistical bureaus. The risk population includes 927 first-time mothers who gave birth between March 2006 and March 2018. Within this period, 525 first-time mothers return to employment within the first three years after childbirth. A significant positive effect of the childcare reform on maternal employment is revealed. Both the availability expansion and the quality improvements are associated with earlier returns to employment, establishing both institutional and cultural effects of childcare policies. An educational gradient of the effect of childcare quality on maternal employment was tested, but the results were not significant.