WASHINGTON — Nearly half of working women who give birth are forgoing paychecks to care for their newborns as employers become selective about granting paid leave. Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits, the widest the gap has been over the past 50 years.

The Census Bureau analysis released Thursday highlights the patchwork of work-family arrangements in the U.S., which, unlike most countries, lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave. The analysis finds that while more companies since the 1960s have been offering paid leave to women for time off for pregnancy, birth and child care, the share of first-time mothers who received such benefits more recently has leveled off.

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