Past Press Releases

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2013

The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) continues its fall lunchtime seminar series October 24th with “Parental Leave Legislation and Women's Work: A Story of Unequal Opportunities,” presented by Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., senior research scientist and economist at WCW.

U.S. federal and state family leave legislation requires employers to provide job protected parental leave for new mothers covered under the legislation. In most cases the leave is unpaid, and rarely longer than 12 weeks in duration. In this presentation, Kerr will evaluate disparities in parental leave eligibility, access and usage across the family income distribution in the United States, as well as look at the links between leave taking and women's labor market careers. The presentation will focus especially on low-income families, as their leave coverage and ability to afford taking unpaid leave is particularly poor.

Although both state and federal legislation have increased overall leave coverage, leave provision, and leave taking, the new policies do not, however, reduce gaps between low- and high-income families' eligibility, leave taking, or leave length. In addition, the FMLA effects on leave taking were not stronger in states without prior leave legislation, nor for women who met the eligibility criteria, as these women were already relatively well covered by other parental leave arrangements. The increased leave taking does not have significant effects on women's wages, earnings, employment, or promotions.

Kerr’s research and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education and families. She is actively involved with the academic community in Europe and in the U.S. An active member of Helsinki Economics of Education Research Group (HEERG), a network of economists working on questions related to educational policies and outcomes, particularly in Finland, she has also served as the Scientific Secretary of the European Regional Science Association and as an international expert in the European Union Mutual Learning Panel on the Economics of Immigration.

Lunchtime seminars are held Thursdays, 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Centers' Cheever House location, 828 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA. The programs are free and open to the public. Guests are invited to bring their lunches, WCW will provide tea and coffee. To confirm program line-up, call 781 283 2500 or visit

The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College is one of the largest gender-focused research-and-action organizations in the world. Scholars at the Centers conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training and action programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center. Since 1974, WCW’s work has generated changes in attitudes, practices, and public policy.

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