Amongst all the other developed and industrialized countries, America stands alone as the only one to not have national policy on paid family leave. Our current system, the Family and Medical leave act, allows Americans to have unpaid family leave, where they can take time off work but won’t be guaranteed any wages. Some states, including California, D.C, and five others, have implemented a policy of paid family leave, but those states are in the minority. The United States should have national policy on paid leave due to the great amount of benefits that outweigh the costs. If the United States were to step up and implement federal policy regarding this issue, there would be major benefits for the working class families, alongside the economy as a whole.
Mothers who received paid family leave were overall healthier than mothers who did not. In a study conducted by a Stanford psychiatrist, Amy Alexander, it was found that there’s less risk of postpartum depression and of being rehospitalized a year after giving birth among mothers who received paid family leave, most likely due to alleviated financial stresses. Studies also found those women were more likely to participate in healthy activities, like stress management and daily exercise, to help their mental and physical health in the long term. This also leads to benefits for the child, as women who received paid leave reported improved bonding and connection with their child and more timely vaccinations, relative to women who did not receive paid leave.
Data also supports that implementing federal policy for 12-week paid leave would have economic benefits for America. Women who received paid leave were less likely to rely on social programs and food stamps, and were more likely to return to work, work longer hours, and receive a wage increase. These consequences suggest that paid leave does not necessarily hurt businesses, as many people would assume, which is one of the main reasons that some people oppose parental leave as national policy. However, it is shown there are major economic benefits, and even so, the livelihood and wellbeing of working class American families should have a greater value than economic cost.
Paid leave should not only extend to women, as it benefits the family unit as a whole. Due to past cultural norms, women were often perceived to be the main caregiver, but as society changes, child-rearing is becoming more of a shared responsibility between partners. Fathers with paid leave participate more in child-rearing, which has positive effects on home life for the mother and child, with studies in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology reporting that increased paternal involvement leads to reduced postpartum depression. This leads to the child receiving greater attention and care, since the mother’s mental health is stable enough to sufficiently nurture and provide care.
Ultimately, the United States can make large steps in improving life for the many families living in the country by implementing federal policy on paid leave. Although some states, like California with the Paid Family Leave Law, have made positive action, all families in the U.S could heavily benefit from this policy.