Study Suggests Paid Paternity Leave Would Reduce Inequality Among Income Classes

Young father is embracing newborn baby.
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Although more states are introducing Paid Family Leave programs, and the federal government permits fathers up to 12 weeks up of unpaid leave after the birth of a child, adoption, or fostering, fewer than 5% of fathers take two or more weeks of leave, says a new study out of Ball State University.

See: 82% of Americans Want Paid Maternity Leave – Making It as Popular as ChocolateFind: Are Finances To Blame for America’s Declining Birth Rate?

And it’s not necessarily a matter of loss-of-income, as even those who receive paid leave through their company or state take one week or less, the data shows. Instead, societal pressures and social factors contribute to men feeling as if they can’t take time off to help with a new baby.

Researcher Dr. Richard Petts, Associate Professor of Sociology at Ball State, observed, “Workplace culture and gender norms emphasize the importance of always being available to work, leaving many people (men especially) to feel that they cannot take (or cannot take a long period) of time off when their child is born,” he said.

“Workplaces need to become more supportive of men taking leave (especially if they offer paternity leave), as evidence suggests that offering and using paid leave increases worker productivity and loyalty.”

Most importantly, Petts said the data shows a federal paid paternity leave program could help reduce income inequality so prevalent in the U.S.

“The current structure of paternity leave exacerbates family inequalities, as more advantaged families are more likely to have access to (and the ability to take) paternity leave and its related benefits,” he relayed.

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Petts noted the research emphasized the socioeconomic variations in support and usage of paid paternity leave, which would likely be introduced as a non-gender-specific “Paid Family Leave” program – if it is introduced at all – by the federal government. Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut currently provide some of the most robust paid leave programs in the country.

Petts said that he hopes greater awareness of the benefits of paid leave, and especially paternity leave, along with policy changes may help more fathers feel comfortable taking leave.

See: The True Cost of Motherhood: 89% of Women on Unpaid Maternity Face Financial HardshipFind: A ‘Maternity Leave Roadmap’ Could Be the Key to a Stress-Free Leave

“In a society where there is growing awareness of the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor (and a shrinking middle class), providing paid paternity leave to all workers may be one way to help reduce inequality,” he said.

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