The United States falls short in spending on family services when compared to other advanced economies.
A survey by a Paris-based think tank OECD examined the family spending in the United States' economy and in other countries, according to Quartz. The United States is among the most stingy when it comes to allocating government funding for paid paternal leave, child care and family support services, but the consequences aren't necessarily negative.
The United States has no government-mandated paid leave policy for new mothers or fathers, although the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees new parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave if the company has over 50 employees and the mother or father has worked at the company for at least 12 months. Private companies can also set up their own paid leave policies if they choose, Quartz says.
For the 60 percent of American workers who qualify for unpaid parental leave, not everyone can afford to take the time offered, according to Forbes.
“It’s expensive to have a baby and to be away from work. So if there’s not enough cushion, or one income doesn’t cut it, then yes, it’s going to be, ‘I have to return at six weeks,’ or ‘I have to return at eight weeks,’” Pat Katepoo, a flex-work adviser and negotiation coach, told Forbes.
The OECD reports that the United States is the only developed country to have no national paid maternity leave, whereas other countries offer anywhere from 18 weeks (Australia) to 52 weeks (Canada).
Despite the popularity of paid leave in other countries, the National Bureau of Economic Research found no real benefit to generous paid leave policies. The expansion of paid leave time in OECD countries had "little impact on parents' future tax payments and benefit receipt. As a result, the large increases in public spending on maternity leave imply a considerable increase in taxes, at a cost to economic efficiency."
Pew Research Center also found a link between liberal national paid leave policies and a high gender pay gap, especially in workers between the ages of 30-35. The study challenged the belief that women are put at an economic disadvantage if they aren't offered paid maternity leave.
The OECD also found that the United States doesn't provide much government support to child care or family support services. The U.S. spends about one-half of one percent of its GDP on family support, while the highest-ranked countries, Iceland and Denmark, spend 2.38 and 2.27 percent, respectively.
Emily Hales is an intern on the national team, covering issues facing families in the United States. She is a communications major at Brigham Young University.