Tax, Health, State of tax law
"Sarah O. had no paid maternity leave from her college teaching jobs after her first two children were born. She had only about three weeks off, once from a semester break and once by arranging for a substitute. She could not afford to take the unpaid leave to which she was entitled with her third child, and was back on the job after taking some sick days and the week of spring break. Her husband had no paid paternity leave, and even had to leave Sarah when she was in labor with one baby to go to work . . . One of Sarah's employers told her that he hoped she would not have more children, and she was informed that she is unlikely to get tenure. She believes having children diminished her tenure chances."
Sarah O.'s plight is in some ways universal to all working mothers, but in some ways peculiarly American. The United States falls far behind the rest of the world in supporting new parents with paid leave benefits. In fact, the United States is one of only three countries that does not guarantee any pay during maternity, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland being the other two. This persists despite research showing the health and productivity benefits of providing paid leave. The closest the United States has come to supporting new parents is the Family Emergency and Medical Leave of 1993 (FMLA), which offers only unpaid leave and only applies to about half of the workforce. In this federal legal vacuum, employers' only incentives to provide paid parental leave are market-driven. Thus it is unsurprising that only eleven percent of the civilian workforce has access to paid parental leave through an employer. Indeed, the vast majority of Americans, like Sarah O. in the excerpt above, must make the choice between sacrificing wages and sacrificing childcare time.
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