Stay-at-Home Mom Knows Best?

Just how important is Mom during a child’s first year of life?  A new working paper by the economists Pedro CarneiroKatrine V. Løken, and Kjell G. Salvanes exploits a recent reform in Norway to answer that question.  The reform, which increased paid and unpaid maternity leave, “increased maternal leave on average by 4 months,” but had no effect on family income.  The authors found that more time with Mom led to lower high school dropout rates later on.

Specifically, “increased time with the child led to a 2.7 percentage points decline in high school dropout. For mothers with low education we find a 5.2 percentage points decline. The effect is especially large for children of mothers who prior to the reform, would take very low levels of unpaid leave.”

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COMMENTS: 9


  1. Patrick McGuire says:

    Oliver James has written an interesting book about this sort of thing.

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  2. MsMarkow says:

    What about stay at home men then?

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  3. Kristine A says:

    As a stay-at-home mom with advanced degrees and a former foster parent having taken attachment courses, I have one thing to say, “Duh.”

    When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is an eternal institution. The act of deserting home in order to shape society is like thoughtlessly removing crucial fingers from an imperiled dike in order to teach people to swim.
    –Neal A. Maxwell

    Too much can’t be said or written about woman’s most important role as a mother. Napoleon is quoted as having asked Madame Campan: “What is wanting in order that the youth of France will be well educated?” “Good mothers,” was her reply. The Emperor was forcibly struck with this answer. “Here,” he said, “is a system in one word—mother.”

    There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.
    –Russell M. Ballard

    Just my two cents. Also it takes more than just a mother IN the house – the mother can be IN the house and shuttering her children out of the way so she can pursue her interests and TV shows . . . I’d much rather have a mother work full time and put her children first while she is there than stay at home with them and ignore them.

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  4. Rhonda says:

    While staying home with a child may be a possibility or a desire, it is in no way a panacea. As a mom who was privileged to be able to “work” at home with all three of my now young adult children, it is indeed work. The responsibilities and expectations are very high from all corners. Working outside the home while raising young children has its merits. In the end, do what’s best for your family, your sanity and your pocketbook!

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  5. Sarah says:

    Every second of the two years I gave when my son was born is worth it. It is unfortunate how difficult it can be to find work after such a long unpaid leave. However the bond between mother and child is scientifically unarguable… it should be valued and commended in high regard more than it is, instead of being questioned or debated. It is a sacred job spot that needs to be faught for and held irreplaceable. Also, mothers returning to the workforce need to be protected in both their decision to stay home for our future generation (the holders of our future economic prowress) and also upon returning.

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    • GPMOM says:

      I have an issue with ‘However the bond between mother and child is scientifically unarguable”. A bond can’t be measured so it can’t be scientific. What a bond means to me may mean something different to you. Staying at home full time, nor breastfeeding for that matter, guarantees anyone a “bond” with their child.

      I chose to stay at home full time after my second was born. I breastfed her and am with her all the time. I am no more “bonded”, close, loving etc, with her than I am with my son who was bottle fed pumped breast milk and went to daycare. Every situation is different just please stop with the loaded words.

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  6. Jordan says:

    My view in this is that the article makes a very good point; I have read numerous articles about how this is true and I think it is a subject that needs to be discussed more often. Mothers are becoming increasingly busy and at work and the ones that do work often are, whether they realize it or not, dividing their attention from their children. If too little attention is paid to the child, the child often develops emotional insecurities and tends to become less interested in education and pursuing a career. This is why I think it is important that mothers work either less, or not at all, because I think that it could greatly increase the number of high school students who do not drop out and therefore better the economy and our society as a whole.

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  7. Jen says:

    Staying home full time with a small child is not for everyone; some moms and dads are better parents *because* they work, either part time or full time. But I don’t doubt that on average, having a parent around more often is better for the kids – it’s just not a good idea to generalize it to every family. This is just such an individual choice. Also, I think it’s interesting that the research is limited to mothers and doesn’t seem to mention fathers, perhaps that’s a cultural thing in Norway that it’s even less common for dads to stay home full time with the kids than it is here in the US. It’s gaining in popularity here though, and I’d like to see more of it – sometimes the dad is better suited than the mom (although in the early months, the mom must stay home for biological/physical recovery reasons) to taking care of the kids without going insane.

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  8. gpo says:

    Like one poster said, “Well Duh.” The more time you spend with your child the better off he/she will be. But I am not one that thinks we as a society must pay people to stay home with their children. Having children is your decision and you must be ready to deal with everything that comes with it.

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