What does the research tell us about how best to design paid leave policies?

This week, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) announced the first-ever hearing in the House of Representatives to focus exclusively on the issue of paid family and medical leave. Following on the heels of the reintroduction of the FAMILY Act in February and the introduction of the New Parents Act and the Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment, or CRADLE Act in March, this year is quickly shaping up to be one featuring new ideas and options for policies to help the millions of Americans who are forced to choose between work and caregiving in ways that are harmful not only to families’ economic security and well-being, but also to the U.S. economy.

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What does the research say about paid family and medical leave policy design options in the United States?

The policies proposed to date differ dramatically in the details, and a rapidly growing body of research tells us a great deal about whether and how different elements of policy design affect a variety of outcomes, ranging from economic security to firm performance to broader macroeconomic indicators such as labor force participation. In a new fact sheet from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, we summarize what this research tells us about some of the policy design choices.

This new work builds on our ongoing project catalyzing new research on paid leave using data from the three states (California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) that have had paid family and medical leave policies in place for years. The project, called the Paid Leave Research Accelerator, also is laying the groundwork for additional research in the three states (New York, Washington, and Massachusetts) and Washington, D.C., all of which have new programs in various stages of implementation. In addition to a comprehensive review summarizing what policymakers and academics know and what they have left to learn about paid family and medical leave, Equitable Growth also has surveyed the data landscape and offered up recommendations to practitioners and researchers who are committed to creating evidence-backed social policy tackling the caregiving conundrum in America.

As federal policymakers dig into this critical issue, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth will continue to provide resources, such as our newly released fact sheet, to inform and advance the debate.


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