Maternity Leave In America Sucks And Here’s Why

by Courtney Bissonette

In the third episode of its series Ovary Action, Broadly reports on the topic of maternity leave in the United States. Host Tracie Egan Morrissey delves into the state of our government’s maternity laws by speaking with legislators, various experts and mothers who can’t afford to stay home. In this episode, the paid leave standards in the U.S. are juxtaposed with those of Papua New Guinea—the only other country with no paid leave—as well as Sweden, the country with the most successful maternity leave program.

The episode contextualizes statistics of paid maternity leave in the three countries through data visualizations and exposes the correlation between maternity leave and the gender wage gap. The data indicates how women’s salaries increase to 90 percent of men’s salaries until childbearing age (around 35), when women’s salaries dip to 77 percent of men’s salaries. It was also found that 40 percent of women who do not have paid leave have to go on public assistance, eventually leading to them being rehired in lower positions than they would have occupied if they hadn’t taken time off. This pattern contributes to women making up two thirds of minimum wage earners. In the episode, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand discusses the Family Act Bill and the three states—California,  Rhode Island, and New Jersey—that have implemented paid maternity leave. Not having paid maternity leave in place is more of a drain on the economy, as in many cases, families end up being forced to go onto public assistance, which ends up costing taxpayers more in the long run. 

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Morrissey interviews various experts, such as foreign policy analyst Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business, which is about men women and family in the work force; Genevieve Wood, a senior contributor of the Heritage Foundation that is against mandating paid leave in the U.S.; Mary Kililo, a woman working at the national heath services of Papua New Guinea; Lotten Sunna, the founding member of the Feminist Initiative in Sweden; and mothers throughout the U.S., Papa New Guinea and Sweden whose lives have been changed due to their governments maternity laws.  

 Watch the hour-long episode below.


More from BUST

We Should All Be Demanding Paid Family Leave – Here’s Why

The Price Tag Of Pregnancy: Why Bringing Home Baby Costs Way More Than It Should

Having It All Kinda Sucks


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