Sisterhood Blog

It’s Paternity Leave, Stupid

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

Those of us who have made it our business to achieve gender equality by way of parenting, have long pushed for better paternity leave policies. Quite simply, it is the right thing to do. But it looks like it’s also the economically prudent thing to do, too.

The New York Times magazine had a story this past weekend on how paying daddy while he stays home to take care of his baby can actually stimulate the economy.

To make her case, writer Catherine Rampell refers to a new study by economists at the University of Chicago and Stanford that estimate that “15 to 20 percent of American productivity growth over the last five decades has come from more efficient allocation of underrepresented groups, like women, into occupations that were largely off-limits, like doctors or lawyers.”

She explains that other rich countries have figured out how to keep women in the labor force, mostly through adopting policies that allow parents to request flexible work arrangements (part-time, home-based), guaranteeing paid leave for both sexes, and, in some cases, affordable childcare. While these policies do increase taxes, they ultimately pay off because they keep women in the workforce — the very same women who help our productivity grow.

The catch is, unless women get more help with parenting from their husbands, they are more likely to end up in “pink-collar” positions, or jobs that accommodate those work-life balance friendly policies. These means less female managers, lawyers, captains of finance, etc. The only way to capitalize on female economic potential is to get dads to “lean in” at home. This means paid paternity leave, and not the type where parents can chose how they want to split it up, but the use it or lose it variety for dads only.

Rampell says that social scientists have found that a few weeks of dads taking care of the baby can change gender roles at work and at home in the long run. In families where the father took paid paternity leave, years later they are more likely to take on a larger share of the domestic work and their wives are more likely to grow their careers, and contribute to the economy.

As for the affordability of paid paternity leave, a story from last year on points out that “if the average birthrate is two kids per family, and parents were provided with a paid FMLA — so 12 weeks per child — that would amount to only 24 weeks over the course of an entire career — less than 1% of lifetime earnings and occurring typically in the lower-earning years of youth.”

The story also makes the point that good parental leave policies are good “social insurance” for all of us, ensuring that our workforce is the best it can be made up of the brightest and most ambitious workers of both sexes.

I’ve heard more than one well-intentioned man say that they hesitate to hire or promote women in their early 30s because of the risk that they might disappear before long to take care of their babies. I have always protested on the principle that as a society it benefits us all to accommodate the creation of properly cared for humans. I am going to stick with that argument, but now add to it that they should split their leave policy between men and women. While this doesn’t solve the disruption to their workplace that caring for babies creates, it at least makes all people in the early 30s, men and women, suspect!

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, sexism, motherhood, jewish women, maternity leave paternity leave, feminism

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.