New study finds link between longer maternity leave and better exam results for children

Longer maternity leave could be linked to better exam results for some children, a new study has suggested.

The research by teams in the UK and Germany found that the kids of middle class, highly educated parents who took longer periods of paid leave gained ‘large and significantly positive effects’ later on in their studies.

Academics from Warwick and Munich universities – who said that the trend was especially noticeable in boys – published their findings in the February issue of the Royal Economic Society’s Journal.

The study also attributed a link between mums and dads who took long periods of leave, but didn’t have any post-school education themselves, and lower exams results when they were younger.

On reaching this latter conclusion, however, those conducting the study did state that the effects were not as clear.

Natalia Danzer, the deputy director of the Ifo centre for labour and demographic economics, released a statement about the interesting findings.

‘The striking thing when we looked at individual groups was the significant difference that depended on the educational background of the mothers,’ she said.

‘These are robust results that stood up through all types of tests.’

Deemed to be the first study to analyse the relationship between length of maternity leave and long-term exam results, Natalia and the research teams worked with data collated when Austria extended paid leave from one year to two years for children born after June 1990.

Despite the fact that Austrian families were analysed, the academics very much believe that the findings can be attributed to the UK and other developed countries.

In the UK, mothers eligible for maternity leave can spend up to 52 weeks off with their baby. The first 26 weeks are referred to as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, while the last 26 weeks are ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.

New fathers have the option of taking one or two weeks off work as paternity leave.