National Partnership for Women & Families

Rutgers Study: Public Policies Increase Workers' Access to Paid Parental Leave, Linked to Less Reliance on Public Assistance

New Brunswick, N.J. — April 30, 2012 —
According to a new study released today by the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the National Partnership for Women & Families, public policies can substantially increase workers’ utilization of paid leave as well as the duration of leave following the birth of a child. Given the variety and magnitude of positive health and economic benefits associated with paid leave in previous studies, Policy Matters, Public Policy, Paid Leave for New Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers concludes that paid leave policies can be viewed as proactive public investments in the health and well-being of children and families in the United States.

“We talk a great deal in the United States about the importance of bonding and child development, especially for very young children. Some women, particularly those in higher-paying jobs, have long had access to paid time off to care for and bond with their new babies. Many other women and most men, however, have been waiting a very long time for this opportunity,” said Professor Linda Houser, an affiliate fellow at Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work, Assistant Professor at Widener University, and co-author of the report. “Our research shows that ‘family-friendly’ public policies extend access to paid leave and thus to the health and economic benefits long associated with leave-taking.”

By comparing the use of paid leave for new mothers and new fathers in states with and without public paid leave policies, the research shows that such policies increase workers’ access to paid leave after a child’s birth. This is particularly true for low-income working women, who are least likely to have access to paid leave through their employers. The research also shows that public assistance and food stamp receipt are lower for new mothers who live in states with paid leave policies, especially when these mothers use the paid leave available to them.

“At a time when millions of women throughout the United States are both breadwinners and primary caregivers for their families, this powerful study shows what we have long suspected -- that common sense, paid leave policies make it significantly more likely that new parents are able to take the time they need when a child is born,” explained Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “Prior research has shown that when workers take paid leave, their families' health and economic security improves, they are less reliant on government assistance; and businesses benefit. This new study suggests that all families, businesses, and our economy could be reaping these benefits if paid leave policies were a national standard.”

Policy Matters is the second study commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. It finds that:

  • In states with Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) or Paid Family Leave (PFL) policies, women are twice as likely to take paid leave following the birth of a child than are women in states without these policies. 
  • The effect is even larger for low-income women, who are least likely to have access to paid leave through their employers. 
  •  In California, which has a longstanding TDI program and the first PFL program in the nation, women are more likely to take paid leave than are women in other states. The California PFL law resulted in a sharp increase in men’s leave-taking following a child’s birth. For the average new father in California, the predicted likelihood of taking paid family leave following a child’s birth more than doubled after the implementation of the new law. 
  • Women in states with TDI or PFL programs are less likely than women in other states to receive public assistance or SNAP (food stamp) income following a child’s birth, particularly when they also take paid leave.

“Although access to unpaid leave is far more widespread, many U.S. working families are unable to afford time off without pay,” said Karen White, director of CWW’s Working Families Program. “This new study demonstrates that basic, ‘family-friendly’ policies are necessary, not only for workers, but they are also beneficial to businesses and communities.”

To view the full report, go to www.smlr.rutgers.edu/cww-report-policy-matters.

ABOUT RUTGERS’CENTER FOR WOMEN AND WORK Founded in 1993, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations’ Center for Women and Work (CWW) is an innovative leader in research and programs that promote gender equity, a high-skill economy, and reconciliation of work and well-being for all. CWW addresses women’s advancement in the workplace, conducts cutting-edge research on successful public and workplace policies, provides technical assistance and programs to educators, industry, and governments, and engages issues that directly affect the living standards of New Jersey’s and the nation’s working families. Areas of concentration include the Working Families Program. For more information on CWW, visit: http://smlr.rutgers.edu/CWW

Contact

Sadie Kliner (202) 986-2600 skliner@nationalpartnership.org

The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.

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