Request for Proposals on Paid Family and Medical Leave


The Washington Center for Equitable Growth seeks to deepen our understanding of whether and how inequality affects economic growth and stability. We are currently requesting proposals on the issue of paid family and medical leave to advance the evidence on how paid leave affects engines of economic growth such as labor force participation, the development of human capital, consumption, and macroeconomic stability.

We support inquiry using many different kinds of evidence, relying on a variety of methodological approaches and cutting across academic disciplines. We also support data collection, measure development, and more foundational investigations into how employers and individuals interact with the paid leave system, as we see completing these research efforts as foundational first steps to connecting the dots between paid leave, inequality, and broadly shared economic growth.

Equitable Growth supports efforts to increase diversity in the social sciences. We recognize the importance of diverse perspectives in broadening and deepening the Center’s research on these topics of core interest.

We are currently requesting proposals in three core areas of interest: medical leave, caregiving leave, and employers and paid leave. Though parental leave to care for a new child is not a core interest, we will consider proposals that focus on parental leave and may fund exceptional work in this area that will advance the research and policy conversation.

For all research questions, we are interested in how outcomes vary across the earnings distribution and by demographic group, as well as by medical condition where relevant. For all causal inference studies, we are interested in how policy design elements including wage replacement rates, leave duration, intermittency of leave, determination processes, and especially job protection and the use of privatized insurance options affect the outcomes under study.


While personal medical leave is the type of leave that is most frequently accessed, it is also the leave type about which the least is known. Creative use of both private-sector and state medical leave and short-term disability program data is strongly encouraged. Key questions related to medical leave include but are not limited to:

  • What are typical patterns of leave-taking for paid personal medical leave in terms of duration, frequency, and intermittency of leave-taking?
  • How does availability of paid personal medical leave affect economic security, healthcare utilization, health outcomes, labor force participation, attachment to one’s employer, presenteeism, absenteeism, and take-up of Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and other safety net programs?
  • How do interactions with the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and private medical guidelines used to assess eligibility and length of leave affect take-up of paid medical leave and the outcomes listed above?
  • How do individuals in need of medical leave experience and interact with the paid leave system?
  • How do individuals who exhaust their medical leave benefits and do not return to work interact with other public and private programs?


Caregiving leave impacts the lives of both caregivers and recipients, but outcomes are understudied for both groups. Key questions related to caregiving leave include but are not limited to:

  • What are typical patterns of time-use among caregivers, including time used on care provision, labor force participation, self-care, or for other responsibilities?
  • How does availability of paid caregiving leave affect healthcare utilization, use of long-term care, and health outcomes among care recipients? How does it affect labor force participation, attachment to one’s employer, presenteeism, and absenteeism among caregivers? How does it affect economic security and interaction with other safety net programs for both care recipients and caregivers?
  • How does paid caregiving leave affect the physical and mental health of care recipients and of caregivers?
  • How do individuals in need of caregiving leave experience and interact with the paid leave system? How does the experience of care recipients vary when paid leave is available to their caregivers?


Even when paid leave is available from the state, employers affect their employees’ interactions with the paid leave system. Additionally, firm responses to the availability of paid leave is a key channel through which paid leave affects the broader economy. Key questions related to employers, firms, and paid leave include but are not limited to:

  • How do firms react to state paid leave policies?
  • How does paid leave impact firm productivity? How do these impacts vary across leave types, industries, occupations, and the business cycle?
  • How does paid leave impact employee turnover? How does worker turnover, including the cost of turnover, vary across leave types, industries, occupations, and the business cycle?
  • How do employers facilitate or impede access to paid leave for their employees and why? What factors affect employer compliance with paid leave laws and regulations?


Chantel Boyens, Principal Policy Associate, The Urban Institute

Tanya Byker, Assistant Professor of Economics, Middlebury College

Christopher Ruhm, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, University of Virginia

Jack Smalligan, Senior Policy Fellow, The Urban Institute

Kristin Smith, Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology, Dartmouth College

Alexandra Stancyzk, Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research

Jane Waldfogel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor of Social Work for the Prevention of Children’s and Youth Problems, Columbia University


Solicitations are open to faculty and postdoctoral scholars affiliated with U.S. universities. The affiliated university must administer the grant.


Grants will range from $25,000 to $100,000 over 1 to 3 years and can cover a wide array of activities, including researcher salary and benefits, research assistance, data purchase, and costs associated with conducting experiments or participating in professional conferences. Our grants cannot cover indirect overhead.


To apply, submit an application using the online submission form.

Application materials include curriculum vitae for all principal investigators, a detailed budget, and a proposal. Proposals should be approximately six pages (about 3,600 words) in length and must:

  • Clearly state the research question(s) to be investigated
  • Situate the research question(s) in the current academic literature and policy context
  • Provide a detailed methodological approach, including data sources and research design
  • Lay out the timeline for completion


Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 1, 2020.

Proposals will be reviewed by Equitable Growth staff, external peer reviewers, and will be reviewed and approved by our Steering Committee.

Funding decisions will be announced in June 2020. We anticipate that funds will be distributed at the start of the 2020–2021 academic year.

Questions? Please email


To submit a proposal, please complete the application form available at