74: Parental leave

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
74: Parental leave


Should there be a legally mandated maternal / paternal leave option in the US?

Show notes and links:
Lots of countries mandate paid leave, why not the US? (NPR)
Maternity Leave / Paid Parental Leave (Huffington nPost)
An argument against paid family leave (Newsweek)
Access to Paid Leave: An Overlooked Aspect of Economic & Social Inequality (CLASP)
Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave (Pew Research)
Paid Family Leave, Fathers’ Leave-Taking, and Leave-Sharing in Dual-Earner Households (Department of Labor)
The link between parental leave and the gender pay gap (Pew Research)
Creating and Using New Data Sources to Analyze the Relationship Between Social Policy and Global Health: The Case of Maternal Leave (National Institutes of Health)
Maternity leave, early maternal employment and child health and development in the US (The Economic Journal)

Full episode text

In a list of thirty-eight mostly Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the United States comes dead last in mandated both maternal and paternal leave options. The 1990’s Family Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave in the US, but only for employees of companies with more than fifty.

Paid – or unpaid guaranteed leave – is a matter of strong debate in the United States. There’s been quite a bit of research on the impacts of family leave.

Quoting here from a number of research studies linked in the description, family leave is positively correlated with:

Reduction in infant mortality by 10% or more
Improved immunization and well-baby visits
Improved health for mom and baby through improved breast-feeding
Reduction in post-partum depression and lifelong depression for mom and baby
Less employee turnover for all parents

…and even more.

Yet parental leave is also negatively correlated, according to some studies, with gender pay parity and, in some cases, mothers in the workforce long-term

There’s been a lot of research about the question of why the United States differs so much from other first-world countries, and one of the strongest arguments I’ve seen is that it’s partially due to the end of the second World War. While many European countries were trying to rebuild their societies and population, the United States was working on asking women to return home and give their jobs up for returning soldiers.

In addition, the United States has a significant class gap, where salaried and higher-paid hourly workers are much more likely to have access to paid family leave than lower-paid workers, which creates a mismatch of advocacy, even at companies such as Netflix, which gave their higher paid workers access to great benefits but not the lower paid ones.