Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Black Women Need Access to Paid Family and Medical Leave, Argues New CAP Column
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RELEASE: Black Women Need Access to Paid Family and Medical Leave, Argues New CAP Column

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  • Claudia Montecinos

Washington, D.C. — The lack of a federal paid leave policy harms the economic security of all families and is being felt particularly by Black women workers across the country, whose families are more likely to rely on them both for their caregiving needs and the economic security they provide. A new joint column released today by the Center for American Progress and the National Partnership for Women and Families finds that in a given year, approximately 2.9 million leaves are needed by working Black women, but 1.1 million are not taken.

Additional key findings of this column include:

  • In a given year, 1.8 million leaves are taken by Black women, but about 42 percent of those leaves are taken without pay, including:
    • 55 percent of parental leaves
    • 40 percent of leaves taken for one’s own health
    • 36 percent of caregiving leaves
  • Each year, Black women lose $3.9 billion in wages while on leave, including:
    • $2.8 billion in annual wages while on their own health leave
    • $866.4 million in annual wages while on parental leave
    • $223.7 million in annual wages while on caregiving leaves

Not receiving pay or only receiving partial pay while on leave can put Black women and their families in precarious economic situations, which has dramatic effects on household finances since a significant share of Black families rely on the earnings of Black women.

Policymakers must focus on permanent solutions that improve the overall quality of jobs by creating protections that enable all workers to take time off for care purposes without the risk of losing their job or financial stability. Adopting national permanent paid leave policies to better support the needs of Black women—and all workers—is necessary to promote racial, gender, and economic equality.

“Black women have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, both as essential workers and at home. But too often, they have not had access to crucial caregiving supports such as paid leave,” said Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families and co-author of the column. “Black women have been expected to provide care for others—whether paid or unpaid—and deprioritize their own care needs. We must have lawmakers who are willing to invest in the care policies needed to make our workplaces stronger, so that all workers can fulfill their work and family obligations.”

“In order to ensure all people can live happy and healthy lives, it is an absolute necessity to ensure that our economic policies are responsive to the unique needs and experiences of women,” added Maggie Jo Buchanan, senior director of the Women’s Initiative at CAP and co-author of the column. “Understanding the severe difficulties that Black women face in accessing paid leave is critical to furthering that goal.”

Related resources:

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at cmontecinos@americanprogress.org.