March 16, 2016
The United States is, a 2014 International Labor Organization report notoriously found, one of only three countries in the world that does not guarantee some form of paid leave to its workers when they become parents. Though the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act was intended to help, the law placed so many conditions on workers' eligibility that fewer than 20 percent of new mothers qualify. While most industrialized nations have offered workers paid maternity leave since the 1970s, many American mothers today lack even unpaid, job-protected leave when they give birth.
Paid leave has been shown to lower maternal and infant mortality rates, which are higher in the United States than any other developed country. In Norway, however, the picture is much different. Following a 1977 law that began allowing working mothers in Norway four months of paid leave and twelve months of unpaid leave, Norwegian economists who examined data on children born before and after it was implemented found startling long-range effects: lower high school dropout rates, higher rates of college attendances, and higher incomes well into adulthood.
New America President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter and Her Excellency Solveig Horne led a discussion of paid parental leave and its potential impact on our nation's children.