82% of Americans Want Paid Maternity Leave – Making It as Popular as Chocolate

Shot of a young woman bonding with her adorable baby boy at home.
Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

The United States is the only wealthy nation that doesn’t guarantee paid leave to mothers after they give birth or adopt a child. The vast majority of Americans would like to see that change.

See: Biden’s New Families Plan: How Will It Actually Affect Your Kids?
Find: Totally Free Time Off for Caregivers – Universal Paid Leave Part of New American Families Plan

According to a YouGov poll of 21,000 people conducted between March 25 and April 1, 2021, 82% of Americans think employees should be able to take paid maternity leave, including for adoption. That level of support makes this benefit about as popular as chocolate. In fact, more Americans want to see paid parental leave in place than would like the government to refrain from cutting their Social Security benefits.

President Joe Biden’s proposed US$1.8 trillion package of new and expanded benefits, which requires congressional approval, would eventually make it possible for all workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave totaling as much as $4,000 per month. This leave would be for mothers and fathers alike, as well as caring for yourself or another loved one.

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As scholars who have extensively studied paid leave, we have been struck by the persistence of Americans’ positive attitudes toward this benefit.

In our newly released study about attitudes among U.S. adults regarding paid leave based on data from 2012, 82% of Americans supported parents receiving paid leave – a proportion that’s identical to the recent YouGov poll.

Repeatedly, since then, polls have found that at least 80% of Americans support paid maternity leave.

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Find: Never Too Early: A Parents’ Guide To Teaching Your Kids About Money

In an era of extreme political polarization, it is astounding that so many Americans can agree on anything. Strong support is even apparent across the political spectrum: 73% of Republicans, 83% of independents and 94% of Democrats back the policy.

Nine states and Washington, D.C. have their own paid family leave programs, and federal workers got paid leave in 2020. But only 21% of U.S. workers can take paid parental leave. The lack of a federal paid leave policy that covers all employees results in the current patchwork of different policies that are difficult to understand and generally not available to most families.

Our research suggests that one reason why paid leave policies have not been more widespread in the U.S. is that Americans are hesitant to support government programs that may require tax hikes. For instance, slightly fewer than half of Americans endorsed using some government funding for paid leave in 2012. Yet, there is evidence that this resistance has been fading, and employers are becoming more supportive of these policies as well.

Support for paid leave for fathers used to be relatively low. About 50% of Americans, for example, endorsed paid leave for fathers in the 2012 survey data we reviewed. With more active fathering gaining popularity since then, support for paid paternity leave has been rising. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed by YouGov in early 2021 backed paid leave for moms and dads alike.

Years of research underscores the benefits of paid maternity leave for women and their families. Our research has demonstrated that when fathers take paternity leave, they tend to develop better relationships with their kids and partners, become more actively involved in parenting and get divorced less frequently.

Make Your Money Work for You

See: House Bill Pushes to Make Child Tax Credit Permanent
Find: What to Do With the $3,000 Child Tax Stimulus

Given that Americans have wanted paid leave for a long time and its benefits are increasingly clear, we believe that a national paid leave policy that covers all parents is an important step to improving the quality of life in America.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

About the Author

Associate Professor of Sociology, The Ohio State University As a sociology professor, I teach sociology classes and conduct quantitative social science research. Traditionally, my research has focused on the effects of children on parents’ lives and on the patterns and implications of fathering, specifically. Recently, I have been comprehensively analyzing the patterns and implications of paternity leaves. I created a new National Sports and Society Survey (https://nsass.org), a landmark project that focuses on patterns of sports involvement and their links to well-being, and have been transitioning into actively researching sports and society issues-- after having restricted my interests in this area to only teaching the sociology of sport, and informally analyzing it, over the past 20+ years. Professor of Sociology, Ball State University Richard J. Petts is Professor of Sociology at Ball State University. His research focuses on family inequalities, focusing on parental leave, father involvement, and workplace flexibility as policies and practices that can reduce gender inequality and improve family well-being. He is a member of the International Network on Leave Policies & Research and Co-Editor of the journal Community, Work & Family. He has published over 30 manuscripts in academic journals such as American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and Journal of Marriage and Family, and his work has been featured in numerous media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, and Bloomberg.

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