Washington, D.C. — A new analysis by the Center for American Progress reveals that, alongside other costs, working families in the United States lose out on at least $28.9 billion in lost wages annually because they lack access to affordable child care and paid family and medical leave. CAP’s new report quantifies the burdensome costs that families are forced to bear as a result of the United States’ unique lack of commonsense work-family policies.
CAP’s analysis finds that families lose out on at least $20.6 billion in lost wages each year due to a lack of access to paid family and medical leave and $8.3 billion in lost wages annually due to a lack of child care. These lost wages occur when individuals are forced to take unpaid leave, quit working, or reduce their work hours because they cannot access child care or paid leave.
As CAP’s report highlights, these lost wages are not only a drag on individual families’ economic well-being—they also take money away from local communities and the businesses that rely on consumer spending. And lost wages are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the costs of not investing in working families.
“Critics often argue that establishing a national paid family leave program or investing in affordable child care is too expensive, but in fact, the cost of failing to make such investments presents a substantial burden on the nation’s economy,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, Director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the report. “The reality is that almost every worker will need time away from their job at some point in their working careers. But few workers can afford to take unpaid leave, putting workers who are facing caregiving responsibilities or a serious illness in an impossible bind.”
Most parents and family caregivers in the United States are employed, yet the United States lacks a robust set of policies to help individuals balance their work and family responsibilities. In fact, unlike every other wealthy country in the world, the United States does not guarantee workers the right to paid maternity leave, nor does it guarantee the right to paid leave for any reason at all. Meanwhile, despite the pervasive need for child care, high-quality affordable child care options remain out of reach for many families.
The lack of access to paid leave—combined with the high cost of child care—makes it difficult for many families to maintain their ties to the labor force and reach their full potential at work while still caring for themselves and their families. As a result, in the event that a worker may need time away from work to welcome a new baby, to care for a seriously ill family member, or to recover from their own serious medical condition, they may be forced to give up or reduce their paychecks in order to care for their families.
To ensure that all workers are able to take time off if they need to care for a family member or themselves without losing their ability to support themselves and their families, federal policymakers must pass a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. CAP—along with the National Partnership for Women and Families—has previously outlined key features of a paid family and medical leave program that meets the needs of working families. To promote access to high-quality, affordable child care, CAP has proposed a High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit to help struggling families afford high-quality child care and has called for greater investment in early childhood programs.
Read the report: The Cost of Work-Family Policy Inaction: Quantifying the Costs Families Currently Face as a Result of Lacking U.S. Work-Family Policies by Sarah Jane Glynn and Danielle Corley
- Who Gets Time Off? by Sarah Jane Glynn, Heather Boushey, and Peter Berg
- Rhetoric vs. Reality: Paid Family and Medical Leave by Sunny Frothingham and Sarah Jane Glynn
- Calculating the Hidden Cost of Interrupting a Career for Child Care by Michael Madowitz, Alex Rowell, and Katie Hamm
- Key Features of a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program that Meets the Needs of Working Families by the Center for American Progress and the National Partnership for Women and Families
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at email@example.com or 202.478.5328.