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Research Details

The Returns to Nursing: Evidence from a Parental Leave Program


In this paper, we quantify the effects of nurses on health care delivery and patient health in the context of an unintended and policy-induced nurse shortage. Our empirical strategy takes advantage of a parental-leave program in Denmark, which offered any parent the opportunity to take up to one year's absence per child aged 0-8. Combining the policy variation with administrative employer-employee match data, we document substantial program take-up among nurses, who could not be replaced on net despite public education and immigration expansion efforts to mitigate the employment effects. We find that the parental leave program reduced hospital and nursing home nurse employment. by 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Using detailed patient health records, we nd detrimental e ects on hospital-care delivery as indicated by a large increase in 30-day readmission rates among acute myocardial infarction patients. We nd no evidence for an increase in hospital mortality. In nursing homes, we estimate a large increase in mortality.


Working Paper


Benjamin Friedrich, Martin Hackmann

Date Published



Friedrich, Benjamin, and Martin Hackmann. 2019. The Returns to Nursing: Evidence from a Parental Leave Program.


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