Maternity Leave in America: Background information when reading The Golden State

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Golden State

by Lydia Kiesling

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling X
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2018, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Michael Kaler

Buy This Book

About this Book

Maternity Leave in America

This article relates to The Golden State

Print Review

Delfina and Dimas, a painting of a mother and child by Diego RiveraEarly on in The Golden State, Daphne details the havoc wrought upon her life by her university job's standard maternity leave policy, per state regulations: "six weeks off at 50 percent of your salary."

Surprisingly, her California university's meager policy ranks among the best in the nation. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 affords eligible Americans 12 weeks of unpaid leave under federal law. It guarantees them zero weeks of paid leave. As of July 2018, the National Partnership for Women and Families reports that only four states have paid family leave insurance laws in place: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York. The amount of leave granted by these states ranges from four weeks (Rhode Island) to eight weeks (New York). Massachusetts, Washington and the District of Columbia plan to implement equally modest insurance laws in upcoming years, and as with the other states, the paid leave will be funded by withholding a small percentage of employee wages. For example, in New Jersey the rate of deduction is 0.09% on the first $32,000 of earnings--that's 9 cents on every $100, a maximum of $28.80 a year. Nowhere in the U.S. are parents granted more than a few months of paid leave, in spite of the entitlement's many benefits.

Paid leave is associated with economic growth and improvements in the health of parents and children alike. The Institute for Women's Policy Research has found that paid family leave has a wide array of positive effects on the economy, from increasing participation in the labor force to reducing spending on public assistance. Paid family leave also encourages greater parental engagement in caregiving, reduces stress on mothers, heightens well-baby care and vaccination rates and lowers rates of mortality for infants and young children. The benefits of paid family leave not only strengthen households but also support the social life of the nation.

Graph depicting the reduced household income of single mothers before and after birthThe federal government's unwillingness to grant extensive paid leave, by contrast, devastates communities and families, especially single-mother households like Daphne's. In her recent research, Alexandra Stanczyk of the Urban Institute has found that economic insecurity plagues families with new babies. American households on average experience over a 10% decline in total income from pre-pregnancy to the birth month, with single-mother households typically experiencing over a 40% drop in income during this period. After birth, the single-mother's income rate rises at a staggered pace, barely returning to pre-pregnancy rates 11 months later. Without paid leave, job turnover rates rise, parents struggle to meet the needs of their children, and mothers' psychological well-being plummets.

Despite the overwhelming benefits of paid leave, critics balk at the idea even in its most minimal form. Trump's federal paid family leave (PFL) program would offer only six weeks of paid time off, but the proposal has received harsh criticism from those opposed to any kind of mandated paid leave. These researchers and pundits claim that businesses, left to unregulated competition with each other, will develop robust leave programs for employees. Government oversight, they allege, would be inefficient and drain the national budget. The argument overlooks the many hidden costs of unpaid or no leave, as well as the fact that the average amount of parental leave that U.S. employers offer has not changed significantly since 2012.

Graph depicting paid maternity leave available in economically developed nationsAmong the world's wealthy countries, America is alone in its stubborn refusal to recognize the necessity of federally guaranteed paid family leave. In fact, according to The World Policy Center, every country in the world offers paid maternity leave other than the USA, Papua New Guinea and Suriname. European countries vary in the amount of paid leave they grant, ranging from 3 years in Estonia and Finland to 14 weeks in Switzerland (click chart for larger image). Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain offer 100% of previous earnings for the entire period of maternity leave. European countries' robust workplace benefits typically are paid for by public funds to which all taxpayers contribute. Not only is the USA woefully behind the rest of the world in terms of paid maternity leave, it is almost alone among developed nations in not offering paternity/family leave.

Until the American government reimagines and reinvents what it can offer to new mothers, especially those who are single and low-income, the kind of financial ruin and psychological breakdown dramatized in The Golden State will remain a common, relatable experience.

Delfina and Dimas by Diego Rivera, courtesy of The Diego Rivera Foundation
Graph depicting disparities in maternity leave, courtesy of The Washington Post

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Golden State. It first ran in the October 31, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    by Patrick Ness
    Patrick Ness has developed a reputation for experimental literature executed well, and his latest, ...
  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Kinship of Secrets
    by Eugenia Kim

    Two sisters grow up bound by family but separated by war; inspired by a true story.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.