Paid Family Leave Proposal

Written and shared by Center for Public Justice


The U.S. remains one of the world’s few industrialized nations without guaranteed paid family leave. Partisan approaches to enacting paid leave have, so far, had little success in changing this fact.

The Families Valued program recently convened a leadership council to examine approaches to paid family leave that reach past traditional categories of right and left. 

Representing diverse Christian traditions, denominations and political orientations, council members agreed on the importance of supporting those entrusted with the responsibility to care for those who are vulnerable in our society. Together, we concluded that a common ground approach to paid family leave, rooted in Christian values1, should: 

  • Ensure universal minimum benefits
  • Prioritize those who are vulnerable
  • Support diverse cultural conceptions of kin
  • Operate with administrative simplicity 

Policymakers can move toward this vision by establishing a universal benefit for new parents and end-of-life caregivers, and by guaranteeing all workers at least two weeks of annual paid leave for meeting health and caregiving needs.  

Changes on the horizon in abortion law mean it is ever more urgent to address the material needs of expectant and new parents. 

1 Echelon Insights, Voters’ Policy Preferences on Paid Family Leave, December 2019, April 2020 Verified Voter Omnibus. On file with CP

Key Messages and Facts

  • In surveys of women seeking abortion, one of the most common reasons given by women for making the choice was that they did not believe they could afford to cover the financial costs related to raising a child (73%).2
  • New parenthood can be a precarious season for families, financially.
    • Parenthood typically occurs early in one’s career and, therefore, have less savings upon which to rely when a new child is born or less paid time off stored up at work. The average age of mothers in the US is 26.3
    • One third of children in the United States are born into low-income families (200% poverty), and 16% are born into families living at or below the poverty line.4
    • Household income drops an average of 10 percent before and after a child is born for American families.5
  • Coming out of the pandemic, Americans want some sort of national paid leave policy.
    • 83% of all voters (and 81% of Republican voters) surveyed in April 2020 said that it was important that, moving forward after the pandemic, that all workers can stay home if they are ill or caring for a family member.
  • Multiple studies confirm that parental leave improves child health.6 The cost of paid leave is balanced by the long-term benefits of healthy development. The introduction of paid maternity leave in Norway, for example, is correlated with a 2 percent decline in the high school dropout rate and 5 percent increase in wages at the age of 30.7  
  • Even after the COVID-19 pandemic, basic benefits such as paid sick leave and paid vacation are unavailable to more than 20 percent of the workforce – particularly low-wage workers. 
  • One third of Black workers and half of Latino workers do not regularly receive any paid sick days at work. Formal, employer-based paid family leave programs (offering several weeks’ paid time off for new parents and other caregivers) reach only 23 percent of the workforce. 

2 Lawrence B. Finer, et al. “Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the U.S.” BMC Women’s Health, June 2013, 13 (Article 29)

3 T.J. Mathews, M.S., Brady E. Hamilton, “Mean Age of Mothers is On the Rise: United States, 2000-2014,” CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. January 2016.

4 US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2017.

5 Alexandra Stanczyk, “The Dynamics of Household Economic Circumstances Around a Birth,”” Demography, 2020.

6 Maya Rossin, “The Effects of Maternity Leave on Children’s Birth and Infant Health Outcomes in the United States,” Journal of Health Economics, 2011. Jenna Stearns, “The Effects of Paid Family Leave: Evidence from Temporary Disability Insurance,” Journal of Health Economics, 2015.

7 Pedro Carneiero, Katrine Loken, Kjell Salvanes, “A Flying Start? Maternity Leave Benefits and Long-Run Outcomes of Children,” Journal of Political Economy, Vol 123, No. 2, April 2015. 

What action we seek from churches and Christian citizens: building a culture in which those who are vulnerable are not ignored or discarded but are enabled to flourish

  • Being pro-family is about more than protecting the nuclear family or one’s own immediate family.
    • Single women and men and those with a range of family obligations are part of churches and the wider community.  
    • There is an emerging group of young Americans who are also caregivers, many of whom are unmarried and caring for parents or extended family. One fourth of the 40 million caregivers in the United States are in their 20s and 30s. About half of these caregivers are single.8 

8 Brendan Finn, AARP Public Policy Institute, “Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers,” AARP Public Policy Institute, 2018.

What action we seek from members of Congress: commit to working in bipartisan fashion to enact a meaningful, universal paid family leave program for Americans.