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07/21/2014 04:55 pm ET

How to Love Paid Family Leave

RuslanDashinsky via Getty Images

Americans like to think they honor and defend family values. Yet in international rankings measuring support for families, based on the amount of paid leave to care for a new child or an ailing relative, the U.S. has sunk to the bottom. The country is one of only four that don’t even guarantee paid maternity leave—the others are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Suriname. The two-decade-old Family and Medical Leave Act allows U.S. workers to take some time off, but without pay. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, almost half of all workers eligible for FMLA leave have been unable to take time off because they simply can’t afford to go without income. And according to the Community Service Society, a charitable group and research center, the average minimum wage worker in New York can afford to take only about eight days off without pay before his or her life savings are wiped out.

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