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Magazine: U.S. Failing Moms on Paid Maternity Leave

While the U.S. is the only industrialized western nation that doesn't provide paid family leave to citizens, the city of Boston is cited as an example of progress with an ordinance signed into law in May. Credit: Robert Whitehead/Flickr.
While the U.S. is the only industrialized western nation that doesn't provide paid family leave to citizens, the city of Boston is cited as an example of progress with an ordinance signed into law in May. Credit: Robert Whitehead/Flickr.
August 25, 2015

BOSTON – The U.S. is dramatically behind the rest of the world in providing adequate support for mothers to spend time with their newborn children, according to an investigative report by In These Times magazine.

Sharon Lerner, the report's author, found most other countries – rich or poor – mandate paid maternity leave. Lerner says American moms frequently have to choose between bonding with newborns or paying the rent.

"Only 13 percent of women have access to any paid time off after they have children," she says. "And that means 87 percent of American women don't have paid leave. So what do they do when they have children?"

Lerner spent months following challenges faced by four new mothers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than one in five of the nation's top 10 percent of earners get paid family leave, compared to one in 20 earners in the bottom 25 percent.

Brad Harrington, executive director at the Boston College Center for Work and Family, agrees the U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to public policy – but he says the private sector and local governments are making progress.

"The city of Boston recently decided to move forward with paid leave for both moms and dads," he says. "You're also seeing employers in our state and others saying, 'well, if we can't legislate this as a matter of national policy then it's something that we have to take into our own hand.'"

Mayor Martin Walsh signed Boston's six-week paid leave ordinance into law in May. California, New York and New Jersey are the only states with paid family leave legislation on the books.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA