In Defense of Paid Family Leave

74 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2004


This article defends state provision of paid family leave. Such a program would allow workers to take compensated time off work to care for a newborn infant or ill family member. In part, paid leave would benefit workers who have caregiving obligations, and those they care for, by easing the strain of work-family conflict. In addition, however, paid leave would allow women, who have historically performed a disproportionate share of family caregiving labor, to participate more fully in the paid workforce. This would in turn increase labor market equality and enhance women's independence. This position is distinct from arguments to make family care subsidies available equally to caregivers who do and do not participate in the paid workforce, as well as from arguments that shun workplace accommodations in favor of more commodified provision of care, external to the family. This Article argues that workers have a specific need for personal time away from work to engage in family caregiving, and absent accommodation of this kind, some women will limit, truncate, or decline participation in paid market labor. At the same time, too generous a program might undermine women's development of human capital and attachment to the workforce. Moreover, the state should spread at least some of the costs of the program beyond those workers (women in their childbearing years) most likely to take leave.

Keywords: Family leave, employment, childcare, gender

JEL Classification: J13, J16, J32, K31

Suggested Citation

Lester, Gillian L. L., In Defense of Paid Family Leave. Available at SSRN:

Gillian L. L. Lester (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10009
212-854-2675 (Phone)

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