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Pew Report on Pregnant Workers Underscores Significance of Young Ruling

Pew Report on Pregnant Workers Underscores Significance of Young Ruling

April 7, 2015 — The percentage of women who work while pregnant has increased over the last few decades, highlighting the importance of the Supreme Court's ruling in Young v. UPS, according to a report by the Pew Research Center, the Washington Times reports.

Researchers compiled the report using U.S. Census Bureau data on employment and maternity leave (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 4/3).

Key Findings

According to the researchers, 66% of women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancies, compared with 44% of women in the early 1960s. The rate appears to have leveled off since the late 1980s, when 67% of women worked during pregnancy with their first child (Gao/Livingston, Pew Research Center report, 3/31). Further, the report found that women increasingly are working through all or nearly all of their pregnancies. Among women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008, 82% remained at work until at least the eighth month of pregnancy.

The researchers also found that the percentage of women who return to work after giving birth has increased. According to the report, about 40% of employed women in the early 1980s left their jobs after having their first child. By contrast, 73% of women who had their first child between 2005 and 2007 returned to work within six months of giving birth.


Report co-author Gretchen Livingston noted that given the findings, the Supreme Court's recent decision in Young v. UPS "may have very wide-reaching implications" (Washington Times, 4/3).

In the case, the Supreme Court ruled that UPS was wrong to deny a pregnant worker, Peggy Young, accommodations it offers to other employees (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/25). The high court sent the case back to the lower court with a framework outlining how employees and employers can address pregnancy discrimination.

The report authors also compared U.S. policies for maternity leave with policies in other countries, noting, "Unlike its developed-world counterparts, the U.S. does not mandate any paid leave."

Currently, some U.S. employers must offer 12 weeks of job-protected leave for eligible employees with medical situations, including childbirth, but such leave can be unpaid. As a result, most women in the U.S. use a mix of paid leave, including vacation days and sick days, in addition to unpaid leave for their births, according to Census data. The federal data found that roughly 10% of employed women used short-term disability insurance to cover the time period surrounding a new birth (Washington Times, 4/3).