Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Defense Management
Naval Postgraduate School
Baby Bumps in the Road: The Impact of Parenthood on Job Performance and Career Advancement
We evaluate the impact of parenthood on men and women's job performance, human capital accumulation, and career advancement using detailed data from the U.S. Marines. For parents who remain employed after having a baby, disruptions in home life and health may spillover into their performance at work. Using monthly data from 2010 to 2019, we exploit variation in the precise timing of first births to identify impacts on health-dependent measures of worker performance. We then compare parents' human capital accumulation and promotion trajectories to similar non-parents' trajectories, using a matching approach that assigns non-parents to ``placebo births." We find negative impacts on parents' employer-assessed physical performance, supervisor-rated job performance, and performance on a firm-specific task (marksmanship scores), concentrated mainly among women. Mothers' accumulation of firm-specific training, but not education, also slows. Fathers increase their postbirth educational attainment relative to their placebos. Consistent with these findings, women's promotion trajectories slow in response to childbirth, but men's do not. We find some evidence these changes in promotion are driven by lowered performance and missing key assessments for promotion consideration during pregnancy and the postbirth period. In a complementary analysis, we exploit sudden policy changes to the length of paid maternity leave to explore whether leave length is associated with mothers' job performance and career advancement. Longer leaves exacerbate short-term declines in women's job-related physical fitness but do not consistently appear to affect their promotion trajectories. Results suggest longer periods away from work due to maternity leave may erode job-specific skills but not on the margin that drives changes in career advancement in this setting.