The United States is unusual among developed countries in guaranteeing exactly zero weeks of paid time-off from work upon the birth or adoption of a child. Japan offers 14 weeks of paid job-protected leave, the U.K. offers 18, Denmark 28, Norway 52 and Sweden offers 68 (yes, that's over a year of paid time-off to take care of a new child).
The U.S. does guarantee that new parents receive 12 weeks of non-paid leave, but only for parents who work in companies that employ 50 workers or more and who have worked there at least 12 months and accrued 1,250 hours or more in that time. These rules translate to about 1/2 of women. The other half are guaranteed nothing.
Companies, of course, can offer more lucrative benefits if they choose to, so some parents do get paid leave. This makes the affordability of having children and the pleasure and ease with which one can do so a class privilege. A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau documents this class inequality, using education as a measure. If you look at the latest data on the far right (2006-2008), you'll see that the chances of receiving paid leave is strongly correlated with level of education:
Looking across the entire graph, however, also reveals that this class inequality only emerged in the early 1970s and has been widening ever since. This is another piece of data revealing the way that the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening.Just to emphasize how perverse this is:
- People with more education, who on average have higher incomes, are often able to take paid time off; but less economically advantaged parents are more likely to have to take that time unpaid. During the post-birth period, then, the economic gap widens.
- Many less-advantaged parents can't afford to take time off unpaid, so they keep working. But even this widens the gap because their salary is lower than the salary the richer person continues to receive during their paid time off of work. So the rich get paid more for staying home than the poor get for going to work.
Originally posted at Sociological Images.