Maternity benefits and marital stability after birth: evidence from the Soviet Baltic republics

Elizabeth Brainerd, Olga Malkova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can a policy intervention in the stressful first year after a birth affect marital stability? We examine this question using a large expansion in maternity benefits in 1982 in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The program provided partially paid leave until the child’s first birthday and included a small cash payment at birth. We use individual-level panel data and compare the Baltics with similar East European countries using a difference-in-differences framework. Maternity benefits decrease divorce within the first year after birth. This decrease persists for at least a decade, indicating that couples avoided divorce altogether rather than simply delaying it. While mothers extended their leave by several months, they returned to full-time work afterwards, consistent with egalitarian gender norms in the labor market.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Population Economics
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The SHARE data collection has been funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001–00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006–062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005–028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006–028812), FP7 (SHARE-PREP: GA N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: GA N°227822, SHARE M4: GA N°261982, DASISH: GA N°283646), and Horizon 2020 (SHARE-DEV3: GA N°676536, SHARE-COHESION: GA N°870628, SERISS: GA N°654221, SSHOC: GA N°823782) and by DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553–01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C), and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Divorce
  • Marital dissolution
  • Marital stability
  • Maternity benefits
  • Mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Economics and Econometrics


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