The Benefits of a Paid Parental Leave Policy

Abby McCloskey & Aparna Mathur, The Washington Post, April 4, 2018

"In his April 1 op-ed, “Who’ll pay for paid family leave,” George F. Will argued against a federal paid parental-leave policy. His main critique was that it would add to our unsustainable debt trajectory, a concern that we share. But our $20 trillion in federal debt is being driven by Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and the interest payments to sustain them, not a paid parental-leave policy.

Paid-leave policies proposed by Republicans cost less than one half of 1 percent of what we spent on entitlements last year. Entitlement reform alone will fix the nation’s debt trajectory.

Mr. Will argued that a paid parental-leave program would truncate state experience. The federal government can learn what has worked from long-running state examples and implement best practices. For example, there has been no evident decrease in employee pay or increase in employer burden from a public paid-leave policy. This is probably because state policies are limited. Costs would grow as the size of the policy increased.

While liberals have understated the costs, conservatives need not ignore the benefits, including higher wages for new mothers, less welfare dependency and improved health. Many families, including the vast majority of low-income families, do not have access to paid-leave policies.

The benefits of a limited paid parental-leave policy outweigh the costs and fill a critical gap in the safety net. The majority of Americans agree. It’s time to consider what types of policies would be most effective instead of swatting down new policies outright.  

Abby McCloskey, Dallas

Aparna Mathur, Washington

The writers are members of the
American Enterprise Institute-Brookings
Working Group on Paid Family and Medical Leave.



A Longer Response To George Will

Abby McCloskey and Aparna Mathur, AEI, April 5, 2018

"Half of Americans do not have $400 they could spend in an emergency, according to the Federal Reserve, let alone go weeks without a paycheck. And it’s not just about the costs of having the baby. It is about the ability to take that time off to have a baby, to recuperate and to look after the needs of the child, and to have a job when they would like to go back to work. While that is obviously common sense, it is also obviously much harder for a poor family to save up enough resources for such occasions. A social insurance approach — such as that we recommended in our report — that allows such costs to be shared across families may be more sensible in this regard."



WSJ Letter to the Editor

Abby McCloskey and Aparna Mathur, "Paid Leave Proposal Isn't A New Entitlement," March 5, 2018

"We take issue with the idea that government-paid parental-leave is political “suicide” for Republicans. Paid parental leave has been found to encourage workforce attachment for new mothers in particular, making it a pro-growth policy that should be in the Republicans’ wheelhouse. It has been found to reduce reliance on other government benefits, such as food stamps, making families more independent. And it has been found to improve mothers’ and children’s health outcomes, which should matter to a pro-family audience. On top of these things, paid parental leave would be relatively inexpensive, representing less than 1% spent on Social Security each year.

Instead of dismissing new programs outright, irrespective of merits, conservatives should be doing the hard work of reforming the existing system to make sense for the 21st-century economy.

We believe that includes the creation of a paid parental-leave program. Not only is it good economics, but one would think it smart politics, given conservatives’ lagging gap among women and voters of childbearing age."


For conservatives, Social Security could be key for paid leave reform

Abby McCloskey & Aparna Mathur, The Hill, February 18, 2018

"A new proposal by Kristin Shapiro of the Independent Women’s Forum and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute may help break the logjam. Their plan would allow working families to claim Social Security benefits early in life, when they become parents, and “pay” for it later by delaying retirement. They estimate that a paid parental leave benefit of 12 weeks would require individuals to delay retirement by only six weeks. The benefit for an average worker at age 25 would be about $1,175 per month."


Republican tax reform goes through the wringer

Brian Fraga, The National Catholic Register, November 10, 2017

"Abby McCloskey, an economist who has advised multiple Republican presidential campaigns, told the Register that the child tax credit would need to be increased much more significantly in order to help a parent be able to stay home or take a longer leave of absence from work for the birth of a child. "It’s just not a significant amount of money, I think, to influence those types of decisions,” McCloskey said. . . .

McCloskey said she favors the bill’s move toward simplifying the tax code. “I think widening the standard deduction, reducing the number of brackets, those types of things that make it easier for wide swaths of the population to file taxes, is an improvement over the status quo,” she said."

D.C.'s paid-leave law needs improvement

Abby McCloskey, Isabel Sawhill, Aparna Mathur, The Washington Post, October 10, 2017

"The District recently passed one of the most expansive paid-leave laws in the nation. Signed without the approval of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), the law has had its fair share of opposition. Today, the D.C. Council will reopen the law to consider a slew of amendments. Some of the proposed changes make sense. Others threaten to make the law worse."


Testimony: Evaluating the Employer and Employee Impacts of Paid Leave Reform

Abby McCloskey, The City Council of Washington D.C., October 10, 2017

". . .  Paid leave is an important issue for today’s workforce, and there’s growing appetite for reform at the state and national level. But it’s important that the costs of such a policy do not outweigh the benefits – a likely result of several of the amendments under consideration today and the Washington D.C. paid leave law as it’s currently written. Reforms that bring the District’s policy more in-line with state experience, reduce the tax burden on employers and employees, and better account for the cumulative economic impact of business mandates would help to strengthen the law – providing an important benefit to the District’s workforce while helping to mitigate costs."

Click here to review the written testimony.

It will be posted in full on the Council of the District of Columbia's website following the Committee vote.

Tax Reform Is No Place For Paid Leave

Abby McCloskey, National Review, September 21, 2017

"In today’s modern economy, with the majority of parents working, this arrangement feels increasingly untenable. There’s evidence it also creates broader economic and social disruptions, such as mothers leaving their jobs, going on public assistance, or returning to work within days of giving birth for lack of other options, which can compromise the health outcomes of parent and child. So it’s good news that a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators is tackling the issue of paid leave. But the group’s approach leaves much to be desired."


The Family Leave Dilemma

Alice Lloyd, Weekly Standard Magazine, September 4, 2017

"Abby McCloskey was another member of the working group. An economist, political consultant, and leading conservative advocate for paid family leave, she was pregnant during the 2016 presidential primaries while working as a policy adviser for Texas’s Rick Perry—who dropped out of the race just at the tail end of her two-month paid maternity leave from the campaign. Republicans, she says, are “pro-life, pro-family, pro-opportunity,” and they face a values test with the issue of paid leave. “If they don’t move on this, I think it will be an obvious sign, and it’s not just that they didn’t like the Democrats’ proposal or it was impossible to come to a compromise,” says McCloskey, an expectant mother once again. “This is an issue that is central to what the party says it values.” Republicans, she adds, will have “no one else to blame if this doesn’t pass, so that’s a really heavy burden and a crucial test.”

As younger lawmakers inherit the GOP, the Eisenhower-era ideal of household roles fades further from memory and new types of pro-family policy are gaining ground. McCloskey perceives “more appetite for this policy among younger politicians, and certainly among women politicians who have experienced firsthand having a child and breastfeeding.” Marco Rubio, she notes, is a 46-year-old father of four. “I think the reason why he would propose a plan, and why Ivanka Trump in her mid-30s would make it her focus, is that people who have first-hand experience [of the modern family] are going to be the biggest advocates.”

“While the public policy process is messy and slow,” says McCloskey, “the ground is softening on paid leave.”



In Our Opinion: Pursue Family-Friendly Policies That Don't Overly Burden Business

The Editorial Board, Desert News, July 11, 2017

"Other pro-family policies provide a wiser approach. Take, for example, Abby McCloskey's proposals on tax reform in the National Review: “Our tax and benefit systems are designed to benefit single-earner households above all else. We impose high effective marginal tax rates on married households in which both spouses work. In a recent report, economists Melissa Kearney and Lesley Turner show how a family headed by a primary earner making $25,000 a year will take home less than 30 percent of a spouse’s earnings under existing policy.” This should change.

Additionally, other reasonable child-care policies, including expanded tax credits for child care and other child-related expenses, can help support working families without putting the direct burden squarely on small business."


The Child Tax Credit Is No Elixir For Family Policy

Abby McCloskey, National Review, July 10, 2017

"There’s agreement among conservatives that relief is needed for parents working and raising children in the 21st century. That’s the good news. The CTC offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for different family arrangements and expenses. But it is unlikely to move the needle on major family and economic issues and could end up putting considerable strain on the federal budget. Sadly, that’s no elixir."


Ivanka Trump Signals Flexibility on Paid Parental Leave

The Associated Press, June 9, 2017

Abby McCloskey, a Republican economist who helped craft the alternative plan, said the original Trump idea was a "great start" that will encourage Republicans to start engaging the topic, but she was critical of its lack of a clear funding source. She said the "muted" reaction so far from politicians is because it presents problems for both parties.

"It's not as generous as Democrats would like, and it's an unfunded program, which Republicans don't like," she said. But she said the Trump team "seems very open to input and advice" and she was optimistic that common ground could be found."


AEI-Brookings Joint Report: Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come

Aparna Mathur, Isabel Sawhill, Abby McCloskey, and others, AEI-Brookings Joint Report, June 6, 2017

"The report suggests a compromise plan for policymakers to consider. The compromise plan would provide eight weeks of gender-neutral paid parental leave, replace 70 percent of wages, and offer job protection. The policy would be fully funded by a combination of payroll taxes and savings elsewhere in the budget, with no increase in the deficit but also no adverse effects on low-income families."