Number of U.S. Women Taking Maternity Leave Is Unchanged Over Two Decades

There has been little change over the past two decades in the number of American women who take maternity leave, a new study finds.

Between 1994 and 2015, the average number of women who took maternity leave each month remained at about 273,000, CBS News reported.

Fewer than half of the women who took maternity leave were paid during it, according to the study in the American Journal of Public Health.

It also found that the number of men taking paternity leave rose from about 5,800 a month in 1994 to 22,000 a month in 2015, CBS News reported.

A lack of paid maternity leave may be one reason maternity leave numbers remain stagnant, the study authors said. In 1993, the federal government passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid time off during the first 12 months after birth to care for a newborn.

Since then, three states -- California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island -- enacted paid family leave legislation, but that didn't seem enough to budge the numbers, the study found.

Unpaid maternity leave can put families in an economic bind, said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and research scientist at The Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research.

"Most people live pay check to pay check," Zagorsky told CBS. "That can be very expensive in the United States to lose pay for a month or two or three, especially at a time after a child is born. Children are not cheap."

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