Regardless of societal progress toward gender equality (like women on the rise as primary breadwinners), lack of paternity leave in the United States still unfairly burdens mothers with the lion’s share of child care.
According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, almost a third of men reported that they had no option to take paternity leave (paid or unpaid) following the birth of a child, and nearly half of the surveyed men reported that they cannot change their starting or ending time at the office. This has to change.
Here are eight reasons we need government-mandated, paid paternity leave now.
1. Children do better in school as a result of a paternity leave. A 2015 study from the University of Oslo showed that when fathers took paternity leave, their children performed better in school. This was particularly true among families where the father was more educated than the mother.
2. Paternity leave can lead to more involved fathers down the line, strengthening gender parity in a long-term relationship. According to the United States Department of Labor, fathers who take a longer paternity leave are more likely to be involved in child care (e.g, changing diapers, feeding, and bathing) nine months later than fathers who take no leave at all.
3. Paternity leave boosts working women’s earnings. A 2010 study in Sweden determined that a mother’s future earnings increased an average of almost 7 percent for every month of leave that her male partner took.
4. Fewer and fewer companies are electing to provide paternity leave. From 2010 to 2014, American companies that offered paternity leave dropped five percentage points, according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management.
5. When men use flexible work arrangements, they receive worse job evaluations and lower raises. In a 2013 issue of the journal Social Issues, one study determined that when men took temporary family leave or more flexible scheduling like working from home or part-time work, they received lower hourly raises and poorer job evaluations. Institutionalizing leave or flex time for fathers would take away the stigma.
6. When men ask for family leave, they are seen as less competent workers. Another study by the same researchers found that men who requested family leave were more likely to be fired or demoted because they were perceived to possess negative traits (such as weakness) often attributed to new mothers in the workforce.
7. Paternity leave is less stigmatized the more men take it. A Norwegian study published in 2014 found that men were more likely to take paternity leave if their brothers or coworkers did, by 15 and 11 percentage points, respectively. And the peer effects “snowball” over time, making for “long-run participation rates.”
8. American fathers want paternity leave. A 2014 study by the Boston College Center for Work and Family (which surveyed 3,000 fathers) found that a whopping 89 percent of participants thought it was important for employers to provide paid paternity leave or paid parental leave (60 percent believed it was “very/extremely important”). Roughly three quarters of participating dads recommended about two to four weeks of paid leave as the right amount that would let them contribute enough at work and be active co-parents.