EPI's weekly illustration of education data trends — June 8, 2016

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Where Children Come From

Birthrates by Family Income in the United States, 2010


With the election in full blaze right now, it is interesting to look at data on one of the primary issues of this campaign: whether women and families should receive paid leave from work. Currently, there is no imposed paid time off for either women or spouses following childbirth. Secretary Clinton is pushing for a 12-week allowance to provide either spouse with 2/3 of their wages, via taxpayer support. Candidate Trump has not cast a few on this to date, other to say that we have to "be careful of it" so it doesn't hurt the economy.

Regardless of stance, paid family leave has significant ramifications for public policy, taxpayers, and on small and large businesses alike. If paid leave is seen as an incentive to have additional children, that would put more burden on hospitals, insurance agencies, and education systems in future years. However, with a continued trend to having fewer babies in the US, and depending on how the policy is crafted, there may not be a discernable impact on birthrates.

Interesting to note from US Census Bureau data is the correlation of income versus childbirth rates. As the graphic illustrates, there exists an inverse relationship between income and childbirth, with the wealthiest women having the fewest babies and the poorest women having the most. As illustrated, the number of births per 1,000 of women for affluent women ($75,000 and over family income) was 54.8 in 2010, compared to 98.3 for those with incomes below $10,000: put another way, poor women give birth at a rate 74 percent higher than affluent women.

One must be careful how to interpret these data and more importantly in how these data are used to craft public policy. But any family leave policy must understand that affluency allows families to (a) be more able to afford children; (b) have tax liability (e.g., earned incomes and pay taxes) that may be important if it becomes a deductable benefit; and (c) more likely to be working than less affluent women.

In the end, the policy discussion will be about affordability of this type of benefit (in the end, someone must pay the cost of this program) and the impact on small, medium, and large businesses if more people take longer leaves.

The US remains one of the few industrialized countries that does not provide paid leave for women or men. The second graphic illustrates how the US is largely isolated in not providing some type of paid leave for families.


SOURCES: US Census Bureau; the World Policy Forum.