Paid Leave Research

Research continues to show the pressing need for paid family and medical leave for working families. For example, research has shown that the U.S. lags far behind other high-income countries in providing paid parental leave — putting our nation at a competitive disadvantage.

Researchers have also revealed the ways in which paid family and medical leave programs benefit both families and businesses through estimated costs, potential savings and anticipated outcomes. Other studies demonstrate the positive effect these programs can have on the financial and physical health of working families. And analyses of the nation’s first statewide paid leave program in California demonstrate its success.

Below, find the following categories of studies about paid family and medical leave.


Existing Paid Leave Programs and Implementation

Assessing Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance Act: Insights from a Survey of Employers. Columbia Business School, 2016.

This report examines how Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) law, adopted in 2013 and effective January 1, 2014, impacted small and medium-sized employers in the manufacturing and food service sectors. One year after TCI was implemented, researchers found that the program had few significant effects on employers, particularly in terms of productivity or perceptions of employee morale, cooperation or attendance. Most Rhode Island employers said they felt supportive (61 percent) or neutral (15 percent) toward the law, and just 24 percent opposed it.

Business as usual: New Jersey employers’ experiences with family leave insurance. Sharon Lerner and Eileen Appelbaum, Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2014.

This study investigates experiences of New Jersey employers with employees who participated in the statewide Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program. Based on 18 in-depth interviews with employers in a variety of industries, the study concludes that the paid family leave law has had little impact on how employers do business and not a single instance of abuse by employees was reported.

California’s Paid Family Leave Program: Ten Years After the Program’s Implementation, Who Has Benefited and What Has Been Learned? California Senate Office of Research, 2014.

This analysis of trends in the paid family leave claims in California in the 10 years since implementation show that the program has seen a gradual increase in the number of claims filed and a discernable increase in the number of men participating in the program. Still awareness remains low. The report calls for increased outreach efforts, particularly efforts aimed at educating those who are least aware of the program and its uses (such as low-income and immigrant workers).

Awareness of New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance Program Is Low, Even As Public Support Remains High and Need Persists. Linda Houser and Karen White, Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2012.

New survey research examines voters’ awareness of and opinions about New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance (FLI) program three years after the program’s 2009 implementation. Researchers find that New Jersey’s FLI program is viewed favorably by more than three-quarters of the state’s voters. Awareness of the FLI program is low but the need for family leave remains high, suggesting that public education and outreach efforts are critically important to ensuring the program’s long-term success.

The Impact of Paid Family Leave on New Jersey Businesses. Miriam Rodriguez, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2012.

Survey research conducted for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association seeks to understand the impact the Paid Family Leave Act has had on New Jersey businesses since its implementation in 2009. It finds that paid leave has had no effect on business profitability or employee productivity, regardless of employer size. Overall, businesses large and small have had little difficulty adjusting to the requirements of the Paid Family Leave Act.

Policy Matters: Public Policy, Paid Leave for New Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers. Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian, Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2012.

This analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth quantifies the role that public policies play in enabling new parents to take leave when a child arrives. It shows that women who live in states that have some kind of paid leave program — either through temporary disability insurance or paid family leave insurance — are twice as likely to take paid leave following the birth of a child as women in states without these policies, and their leave periods are an average of 22 days longer. In California, where a paid family leave program has provided paid leave to new parents and family caregivers since 2004, both women and men are more likely to take paid leave following the birth of a child than women and men in other states. Further, women in states with paid leave programs and those who take paid leave and then return to work are less likely than women in other states and than those who continue working after the birth of a child without taking leave to receive public assistance or food stamp income, which likely results in cost savings for those states.

Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impact of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public. Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian, Center for Women and Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, 2012.

This analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth finds that women who use paid leave after childbirth have stronger labor force attachment and positive changes in wages after their return to work, compared to women who take no leave. Both women and men who take paid leave after a child’s birth have lower levels of public assistance receipt, compared to women and men who take no leave. These findings suggest that a national paid family leave policy would have widespread positive effects on family economic security and lead to decreases in public spending.

Leaves That Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Leave in California. Eileen Appelbaum and Ruth Milkman. 2011.

California is one of two states that provides paid leave for workers caring for new children or ill family members. This report examines the effects of California’s paid family leave program on employers and workers six years after the program’s implementation. The findings are positive across the board: employers, including small employers, overwhelmingly reported that the program had a neutral or positive effect on business, while workers — particularly those in “low-quality” jobs — benefited from longer periods of leave. The report also presents gaps in the program and suggestions for next steps, including amending the law to provide job protection and improving public education about the program.

A Guide to Implementing Paid Family Leave: Lessons from California. Netsy Firestein, Ann O’Leary, and Zoe Savitsky, 2011.

This guide provides lessons learned from the passage and implementation of California’s paid family leave program. Overall, the authors give the program high marks, but also point out remaining challenges and offer policy recommendations for improvement. A good resource for other states considering paid leave programs.

California’s Paid Family Leave Act Is Less Onerous Than Predicted. Jennifer Redmond and Evgenia Fkiaras. Society for Human Resource Management, 2010.

This brief from SHRM, the national human resource management association, finds that despite dire predictions by some in the business community, California’s paid family leave program does not place an onerous burden on employers.

New Data on Paid Family Leave. Ruth Milkman. UCLA California Paid Family Leave Research Project, 2008. Not available online. Contact the National Partnership for more information.

Among the findings of a 2007 survey of California workers is that most workers either have needed to or expect to need to take leave from their jobs at some point. In other words, leave from work is a fact of life for most Californians. However, awareness of the state’s paid family leave program is low, especially among the workers who could most benefit from it.

Balancing Work and Family. Rona Levine Sherriff. California Senate Office of Research, 2007.

This analysis of California’s paid family leave program was completed by the state Senate’s bipartisan research office and examines trends from the first few years of the program.


Policy Analyses

Paid Family and Medical Leave: A Racial Justice Issue – and Opportunity National Partnership, 2018.

The vast majority of working people in the United States – 85 percent – do not have paid family leave through their employers, and the consequences for people of color are especially severe. This is, in part, due to past and present institutionalized racism that has resulted in significant health and economic disparities. This brief will describe these disparities to show that addressing our paid leave crisis is a racial justice issue that requires a carefully designed and implemented federal policy solution.

Administering Paid Family and Medical Leave: Learning from International and Domestic Examples. Sarah Jane Glynn, Center for American Progress, 2015.

Through the examination of international and domestic paid family and medical leave programs, this report outlines how the following three program structures operate and could function as federal programs: employer requirement programs, social insurance programs and publicly funded programs. The report evaluates how these program structures support women’s labor force attachment, promote gender equity and reduce inequality, requiring the ideal program to be universal, accessible, comprehensive, affordable and inclusive. The report ultimately offers the FAMILY Act and a business-government partnership as the two options that meet the aforementioned goals and criteria.

Workforce Supports for Low-Income Families: Key Research Findings and Policy Trends. Pamela Winston, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2014.

Details the state of family friendly policies, including paid leave and paid sick days, in the United States, with a focus on low-income workers and families. Confirms that while “research indicates that work-family policies can have positive effects on children’s wellbeing, parents’ incomes and job stability, employers’ productivity, and public health,” access to these policies among U.S. workers is piecemeal, with low-wage workers having by far the least access. Also reviews enacted and proposed federal, state and local work and family legislation.

Family Security Insurance: A New Foundation for Economic Security. Workplace Flexibility 2010 and Berkeley Law Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, 2010.

In addition to containing detailed background information and data on paid family and medical leave, this comprehensive report explores in detail what a national paid family and medical leave program, or "family security insurance," might look like.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Simulation Model. Randy Albelda and Alan Clayton-Matthews. Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Labor Resource Center, 2010.

Using U.S. Department of Labor data on leave-taking, the authors created a simulation model that can be used to estimate the cost of a state paid leave program. This report explains the model and provides a comparison between predicted outcomes and actual use of the unpaid federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The Need for Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees: Adapting to a Changing Workforce. Kevin Miller, Allison Suppan Helmuth, and Robin Farabee-Siers. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2010.

This study recommends that the U.S. government adopt a paid parental leave policy for federal workers as a strategy for retaining government employees.

Achieving a Workable Balance: New Jersey Employers’ Experiences Managing Employee Leave and Turnover. Eileen Appelbaum and Ruth Milkman. Center for Women and Work, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, 2006.

Shortly before New Jersey became the second state to pass and implement a paid family leave program, the authors surveyed employers in the state about their experiences with both unpaid FMLA and paid leave, using the data to make the business case for a statewide paid leave program.

Paid Family Leave in California: An Analysis of Costs and Benefits. Arindrajit Dube and Ethan Kaplan. 2002.

Before California passed its paid family leave program, this cost-benefit analysis found that in addition to providing benefits to millions of workers, the program could also lead to millions of dollars in savings for the state and for California businesses.


Studies on Access to Paid Leave

A Necessity, Not a Benefit: NYC’s Low-Income Moms Discuss Their Struggles without Paid Family Leave and Job Security. Community Service Society of New York, May 2015.

Based on focus groups with low-income mothers in New York City, this research highlights the risks and negative consequences for low-income women when they lack access to paid family leave following childbirth. The study finds that lack of access to paid family leave and a lack of information about the benefits available to them via Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI), the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) create a cycle of debt, health issues and depression. The benefits of paid family leave include boosting employee morale, a quicker return to work after a child is born, and security and stability for the family. The study is the first in a two-part project comparing women’s experiences in New Jersey and New York.

Just 36 % of Voters Aware of State’s Paid Family Leave Program. Field Research Corporation and California Center for Research on Women and Families, 2014.

A survey of 1,010 registered voters conducted in October 2014 found that roughly one in three California voters (36 percent) report being aware of the state’s paid family leave program, down from 43 percent in 2011. Awareness is low in nearly all major voter subgroups, but particularly large among low-income voters, ethnic voters, the least educated (high school or less), parents with children under five and women.

Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-Time Mothers: 1961 — 2008. Lynda Laughlin, U.S. Census Bureau, 2011.

This U.S. Census Bureau report shows that not only are rates of paid leave taking among new mothers low, but there are massive disparities. Only half of all first-time mothers take paid leave in connection with childbirth. Among mothers with less than a high school education, the rate is less than 20 percent, and has not changed in nearly 50 years.

Paid Leave in the States: A Critical Support for Low-wage Workers and their Families. Sarah Fass. Columbia University Mailman School National Center for Children in Poverty, 2009.

Low-income families are more economically vulnerable to major life events such as a new child, but public policies offer them little support. This report makes the case for paid family and medical leave as a support for workers and families facing these types of challenges, and ends with policy recommendations for states considering paid leave.

Getting Time Off: Access to Leave among Working Parents. Katherin Ross Phillips. Urban Institute, 2004.

An important analysis of disparities in access to paid leave, this study concludes that poor workers, working welfare recipients, and working recent welfare leavers have significantly lower rates of access to paid leave than non-poor workers and workers with no recent welfare experience.


Studies on the Effects of Paid Leave

Working Parents: What Factors Are Involved in Their Ability to Take Time Off From Work When Their Children Are Sick? The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 1999.

This article explores the working conditions that determine whether parents can care for their sick children. Citing the important role parental care plays in a child’s recovery and mental health, researchers use data from the Baltimore Parenthood Study to examine which indicators — including access to paid leave, income and education — enable a parent to provide such care. The findings include that more than half of the surveyed parents who stayed home said they were able to do so because they received some sort of paid leave.

Paid Family Leave, Fathers’ Leave-Taking, and Leave-Sharing in Dual-Earner Households. Ann Bartel, Maya Rossin-Slater, Christopher Ruhm, Jenna Stearns and Jane Waldfogel, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015.

This study estimates the effects of California’s paid family leave program on fathers’ leave taking, as well as on the division of leave between mothers and fathers in dual-earner households. The results show that fathers in California are 46 percent more likely to take leave in the first year of their children’s lives with paid leave. Likewise, paid leave increases leave taking among fathers when mothers return to work or when both parents are on leave at the same time. These effects are almost entirely driven by fathers of first-born children and fathers in female-dominated occupations.

Fact Sheet: Parental Leave and the Health of Infants, Children and Mothers. Human Impact Partners, 2011.

This fact sheet provides a comprehensive overview of the benefits of paid leave for the health of mothers, newborn infants and children. Research shows that parents who have access to paid leave are better able to care for their newborn and young children, leading to improved outcomes in health and well-being.

Newborn Family Leave: Effects on Children, Parents, and Business. Deanna S. Gomby and Dow-Jane Pei. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, 2009.

This report synthesizes existing research on parental leave and finds that it has a range of benefits for child and family health. Significantly, the authors also find that the most important determinant of whether parents take leave is if it is paid or job-protected.

Family Friendly Policies: Helping Mothers Make Ends Meet. Heather Boushey. Review of Social Economy, 2008. Contact the National Partnership for access.

In examining the effect of maternity leave on wages, Boushey finds that having access to paid leave after childbirth increases the likelihood that a mother will return to work. When women return to work, employers benefit from reduced turnover.

Paternity Leave and Fathers’ Involvement With Their Young Children. Lenna Nepomnyaschy and Jane Waldfogel. Community, Work & Family, 2007. Contact the National Partnership for access.

This research shows that the length of paternity leaves varies a great deal, but that fathers who take longer leaves after the birth of their children are more involved in caring for those children nine months later.

Maternity Leave, Early Maternal Employment, and Child Health and Development in the U.S. Lawrence Berger, Jennifer Hill and Jane Waldfogel. The Economic Journal, 2005. Not available online. Contact the National Partnership for access.

Using national data, the authors find a correlation between mothers’ early return to work after giving birth and poorer health outcomes for children, suggesting that longer maternal leaves could benefit child health and development.

Parental leave and child health. Christopher Ruhm. Journal of Health Economics, 2000.

This multi-country study shows that longer parental leaves correlate with improved child health and that increasing the duration of leave for new parents may be a cost-effective way of improving children’s health.


International Comparisons

Paid Parental Leave: Lessons from OECD Countries and Selected U.S. States. William Adema, Chris Clarke and Valerie Frey, OECD Publishing, 2015.

This working paper focuses on issues related to the reconciliation of work and family in the United States and within the OECD, particularly focusing on paid parental leave. The paper finds that the lack of access to paid parental leave and child care supports are harming American women and families. It outlines the international and U.S. state-based evidence for providing more supportive policies and the consequences of inaction. The report provides specific recommendations for the United States to provide federal paid maternity and parental leave in order to improve parental labor force attachment and improve outcomes for children.

Maternity and paternity at work: Law and practice across the world. International Labor Organization, 2014.

This report from the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) reviews maternity leave, paternity leave and related policies in up to 176 countries. The report finds that the United States is an outlier among developed countries in not guaranteeing any paid maternity leave. The United States also does not conform to the ILO’s Maternity Protection Convention, which calls for 14 weeks of leave for new mothers, paid at two-thirds of their regular earnings.

Work-Life Balance: United States. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2012.

This website ranks OECD countries on work-family issues. The U.S. (click on “United States”) scores poorly among developed nations. The lives of working families could be improved if the U.S. adopted a paid leave policy, among other recommendations.

Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth that We Can’t Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone. Jody Heymann and Alison Earle. Stanford University Press, 2010.

In this book, Heymann uses global labor data to show that countries with high labor standards, including paid family leave, also lead in economic competitiveness. Armed with this evidence, she makes the case that the U.S. too should strengthen its worker protections.

Parental Leave Policies in 21 Countries: Assessing Generosity and Gender Equality. Rebecca Ray, Janet C. Gornick, and John Schmitt. Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2009.

This study shows that the U.S. has the least generous paid parental leave policies of 21 high-income countries.

The Work, Family, and Equity Index: How Does the United States Measure Up? Jody Heymann, Alison Earle, and Jeffrey Hayes. McGill University Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Project on Global Working Families, 2007.

This research finds that the U.S. ranks near the bottom among all countries in terms of guaranteeing access to work-family policies such as paid parental leave and family caregiving leave.


Related Studies

The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents. MetLife Mature Market Institute, National Alliance for Caregiving, and Center for Long Term Care Research and Policy at New York Medical College, 2011.

This report uses National Health and Retirement Study data to examine the impact of parental caregiving on caregivers over the age of 50, with a particular focus on the roles of gender and work status. Almost 10 million adults over the age of 50 care for their parents. The average caregiver over 50 who leaves the workforce to care for a parent loses $303,880 in wages, Social Security and private pensions. Among the key findings of the report is that this penalty is even higher for women, who lose more than $324,000.

Paid Family and Medical Leave: Supporting Families, Businesses, and the Economy. Montana Budget and Policy Center, 2015.

In 2014, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to study the feasibility of developing and implementing a statewide paid family and medical leave program. This is the first of three reports from that grant-funded research. The comprehensive report uses evidence from state-initiated paid leave programs and national studies to examine how paid leave benefits families, businesses, and the economy, with a particular focus on benefits to Montana residents.

The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict: The Poor, the Professionals, and the Missing Middle. Joan C. Williams and Heather Boushey. Center for American Progress and Center for WorkLife Law, 2010.

Work-family challenges are persistent across the economic spectrum, but they affect families with different resources in different ways. Citing research as well as compelling case studies, the authors show that work-family conflict is a national problem that requires national solutions.

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. A Study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, 2009.

Women now make up half of the paid U.S. workforce, but today’s workplace policies have not caught up to reflect the impact of this change. In this groundbreaking report, the nation’s top experts explore what this fact means for our families, workplaces, and workplace policies.

Times are Changing: Gender and Generation at Work and Home. Families and Work Institute, 2009.

The 21st-century American workforce differs significantly from that of past generations. This report examines some of these changes, many of which underscore the need for public policies to catch up to modern realities.

Caregiving in the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 2009.

An in-depth examination of family caregiving in the U.S., this study shows that most unpaid caregivers also have paid jobs — demonstrating the need for public policies that help them succeed at both their work and their family responsibilities.