Ethnic minorities draw in lower incomes on average compared to white families, national paid family leave would alleviate financial difficulties for families of color, report says
The United States of America is one of four countries in the world, and the only developed nation, that don’t have a federally mandated paid family leave (PFL) program.
Some states like California, Hawaii and New York have established their own programs for PFL, which allows working individuals to take paid time off for pregnancy and care for a newborn or to take care of a family member with a serious illness.
Establishing a national PFL program has been a political talking point, especially among Democrats and leftists who have pushed for a federally mandated PFL.
And a majority of Americans agree, according to a new study from the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPFW) released on Thursday, Aug. 9.
Eight out of 10 Americans of all political leanings support a comprehensive national PFL policy that would cover all employed people (who comprise 84 percent of people).
The survey also found that six out of 10 registered voters said they would endure “serious financial hardship” if they had to take a few months off of work for family or medical reasons without pay.
The report released by NPFW found that low-income families of color, in particular, would greatly benefit from a national PFL program. In times of need, people of color generally draw in less income; white families take home $140,500 in wealth on average while Latino and black families draw in $6,300 and $3,400 in wealth on average, respectively.
“It’s clear that women and people of color need and will benefit from paid family and medical leave, but the policy details matter,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, in a statement released Thursday. “I am encouraged to see more and more policymakers across the political spectrum looking for ways to provide paid leave, which supports women, working families and the economy, but in order to be effective, any new policy must recognize the discriminatory, structural barriers that penalize people of color and especially women of color.”
Ness added: “A poorly-designed paid leave program that does not place the needs of women of color at the forefront risks excluding the very people who may face the greatest barriers to taking leave.”
Many lawmakers and advocates for a federal PFL program see the issue as economic injustice and also as a form of racial injustice. While the economic plight of the black and Latino communities is well-known, there is very little attention given to Asian and Native American families, many of whom also face drastic income and wealth challenges.
The NPWF acknowledges this in their report and cites the ways in which the Census Bureau tallies the Asian American community as “oversimplified,” which contributes to the notion that the Asian American community — which comprises of more than 200 different cultures and countless subcultures — is a singular demographic.
“The lack of disaggregated data for Asians means that the economic status of people with ancestry from nearly 50 countries is oversimplified,” the report reads. “The Census Bureau’s broad category “Asian” masks the diversity of communities that fall under that label, and wealth and income inequality within the category is substantial and growing.”
While the top 10 percent of Asian and Asian Americans generally make more money than the top percent of white Americans, the bottom 10 percent of Asians and Asian Americans have far less wealth than the bottom quintile of white Americans.