Snapshot of 2020 Presidential Candidates on Key Work/Family Issues

Blog Post
Karl_Sonnenberg /
April 16, 2020

Presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees have been selected and our snapshot tracking has drawn to a close as of the last month of the active primary campaign. However, the need to prioritize work-family gender justice issues has never been greater.

During the final months of a robust presidential primary process, work-family issues gained some - but not enough - traction. As my colleague, Jahdziah St. Julien, wrote in her insightful report on Democratic debate dialogue here, the work-family and gender justice issues that feature prominently in the lives of most women and families did not receive enough attention overall, especially as the field of candidates became less diverse.

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has showcased how fragile Americans' access to paid sick time, paid family and medical leave and child care is; laid bare frontline workers' relative powerlessness in their workplaces; and underscored the devastating effects that low wages have in workers' and families' ability to endure unexpected economic hardship. As the general election fight gets underway, we call on people, candidates, interest groups and journalists to continue to focus on child care, paid leave, equal pay and workplace harassment solutions to both the emergency and long-term problems people face.

A snapshot of each candidate's platform, speeches and record as of April 2020 is presented below, with each dot hyperlinked to a source. Our methodology is described in note 2.

Our analysis does not suggest historical or current endorsement, support of, or opposition to any candidate; it is simply a record of whether each candidate addressed a particular issue. We hope this will help the media and the public to understand where candidates stood. Please contact us for further details or our perspectives on specific proposals offered during the campaign.

Jahdziah St. Julien, the Better Life Lab's program assistant, assisted with locating and evaluating content to update to this tracking snapshot which was last updated on April 16, 2020.

[1] Sources: We used the following sources for each metric:

  • 2020 campaign platform: Campaign website and campaign Medium posts through April 8, 2020.
  • Supportive statements: Op-ed or major speech associated with presidential candidacy (announcement speech or, for the Democratic candidates, a speech at the 2019 California Democratic Party Convention, the 2019 Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Forum, the 2019 Move On Big Ideas Forum, the 2019 NAACP National Convention, the 2019 Polk County Iowa Steak Fry and - beginning with the December 2019 update, a search of Campaign 2020 events in the C-SPAN video library from October forward); town halls and smaller events cataloged in the C-SPAN video library from January 2020 through February 28, 2020.
  • Position while in office:
    • For current or former federal lawmakers: Co-sponsorship of five federal bills (the Child Care for Working Families Act (child care), the Paycheck Fairness Act (equal pay), the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (paid family and medical leave) and either the EMPOWER Act or the BE HEARD Act (workplace harassment))
    • For current or former governors or mayors: Executive actions or support for state/local legislation
  • NEW: Fortune/Time's Up Digital Forum responses: On January 28, Fortune published summaries and videos of candidates' responses to a questionnaire sponsored by itself and Time's Up Now. We have included representations of candidates' responses to that questionnaire. Where a candidate's answer was not specific enough to understand their approach to policy, we used a ? to represent that they had attempted to answer the question. Two candidates (Joe Walsh and Bill Weld) did not respond to the Fortune/Time's Up request for information.

[2] Methodology: Our analysis provides credit to any candidate who mentions the need for action on an issue on their website or in a major speech or op-ed. Some candidates have gone much further than others in detailing specific plans. As described in the chart legend, we differentiated candidates' positions in policy focus and scope in two areas: early care and learning (to differentiate between candidates whose positions focus on pre-3 and pre-K rather than the cost and affordability of child care) and paid leave (to differentiate between candidates whose positions focus only on paid leave for new parents rather than for all working people who need leave to care for new children, loved ones or their own serious health issue). We used ? where the candidate mentions the issue very vaguely but provides no detail at all on policy details.

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Family-Supportive Social Policy