Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Economics Dept.


Stephanie Owen

Second Advisor

Tim Hubbard


Postpartum depression rates in the United States have doubled since 2010, with potentially significant economic consequences. In this study, I examine the relationship between postpartum depression and new mothers’ labor force participation using a national longitudinal dataset of 738 new mothers. I examine two labor force participation outcomes: whether or not a new mother returned to work postpartum, and the number of days it took for her to do so if she returned. I include a detailed set of demographic and social control factors. I find that conditional on these controls, having postpartum depression relates to a statistically insignificant 4.73 percentage point increase in the likelihood a new mother returns to work and a statistically significant 49.33 day increase in the number of days it takes for her to do so. Overall, this study demonstrates that while postpartum depression has a significant effect on the time it takes a new mother to return to work, it is likely demographic and social factors that determine whether a new mother returns to work. These findings indicate that reducing postpartum depression rates, whether through treatments, improved maternity leave policies, or other social interventions, may reduce the duration of time new mothers take off from work. However, such efforts are unlikely to significantly impact whether or not a new mother returns to work at all. These results can be a step in understanding the relationship between postpartum mental health and return to work decisions.


postpartum depression, return to labor force postpartum, postpartum employment, maternal employment