Washington, D.C. — While there is striking public support for work-family policies such as paid family leave, paid sick days, and access to affordable child care and early childhood education, the benefits of work-family policies often are not considered within the context of economic inequality. However, a new report and an accompanying analysis released today by the Center for American Progress suggest that policies aimed at increasing women’s labor force participation would reduce the nation’s staggering levels of income inequality.
Between 1963 and 2013, income inequality among married couples grew 25 percent. According to CAP’s analysis, however, inequality in the United States would have grown more than 50 percent faster during that period if women’s earnings had not increased. In other words, America’s currently unacceptable levels of income inequality would be even more unacceptable if not for women’s growing earnings.
“The message is simple: In order to fight inequality, we must support women’s ability to stay and thrive in the workforce,” said Judith Warner, CAP Senior Fellow. “While this message has taken root in many advanced economies around the world, the United States continues to silo work-family policy as a ‘women’s issue’ rather than an engine to fight inequality.”
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee paid time off for working parents to care for a new child, as well as one of the only high-income nations that does not guarantee workers paid sick leave. Lack of work-family policies has put a singular burden on American women, who still bear the lion’s share of responsibility for unpaid work at home. As a result, women without access to work-family policies are forced out of work when they have caregiving responsibilities. This is particularity the case for low-income women, who are less likely to have access to work-family supports through their employers than high-income women.
“Over the past three decades, income inequality has grown at a staggering rate, as those at the top take home an increasing share of the economic pie,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, CAP Director of Women’s Economic Policy. “Policies that help women stay in the workforce, such as paid leave and access to quality, affordable child care options, should be seen as a critical tool for fighting inequality.”
Inequality has many causes and requires a multifaceted policy response. As CAP’s new report and analysis reveal, however, measures that help families—and women in particular—reconcile their work and family obligations are a critical countervailing force against the scourge of income inequality.
Read the report: To Fight Inequality, Support Women’s Work by Judith Warner
Read the analysis: How Married Women’s Rising Earnings Have Reduced Inequality by Brendan Duke
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at email@example.com or 202.478.5328.