*An updated version of this report will be published on Friday, June 2.
By Sapna Mehta and Jessica Milli
As corporate profits soar and the labor market tightens, employers in some sectors continue to experience staffing shortages. Yet data suggest that not all employers are stepping in to improve the quality of jobs to attract and retain new workers. In this brief, we use data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) to estimate the share of workers at the national and state level who have access to paid sick leave.
CLASP’s analysis examines access to paid sick leave at the national and state level by income, gender, and hours worked. We also compare access to paid sick leave in states with state and local paid sick leave laws and ordinances, as well as those without any requirements. Our analysis finds that a significant portion of the population still lacks access to paid sick leave, with disparities in access across income and hours worked. Moreover, those disparities are significantly narrower in states and localities with paid sick leave laws.
By Isha Weerasinghe and Emily Andrews
May is Maternal Mental Health Month, offering an opportunity to raise awareness around the challenges new mothers face and the policy solutions that can support maternal mental health.
This country is facing a maternal health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. maternal mortality rates jumped 38 percent in the last year to 32 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021, up from 21 deaths per 100,000 in 2020. This jump follows a steady rise in maternal mortality rates over the past several years. The impact of this devastating statistic is not borne equally. Reflecting historic and current systemic racism in our health care system, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 2.6 times that of white women.
A CDC review of data from 36 states found that 53 percent of pregnancy-related maternal deaths occur between 7 days and 1 year after pregnancy, and the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths was mental health conditions. Indeed, one in eight U.S. women suffer from mental health concerns following the birth of a child, a risk that is 1.6 times higher for Black women.
The United States stands out among other wealthy nations for our high maternal mortality rate and our related lack of paid family leave. We have the highest maternal mortality rate of any OECD country, averaging over three times the rate of most other high-income countries. Our nation is the only OECD country that doesn’t offer paid family and medical leave. In fact, we are one of only seven countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternal leave to new mothers.
Without a federal guarantee to paid family and medical leave, the vast majority of birthing persons lack the ability to take time off to heal after giving birth and care for themselves and their young infant. The time after birth presents many emotional, physical, and social changes, and facing these changes plus caring for a newborn can feel overwhelming. Many consider this time of life to be the “fourth trimester,” a critical time of discovery and bonding for parents and infants.
Paid family and medical leave is critical to address maternal mental health concerns. A review of 45 studies on paid leave found that parental leave—especially paid leave of at least 2-3 months—can protect mothers against mental health concerns in the postpartum period. Specifically, researchers found that significant parental leave decreased the risk of stress, reduced the number of depressive symptoms, and lowered rates of hospital admissions for mental health conditions. In 2021, only 1 in 4 employees in the private sector had access to paid family leave. For those individuals earning the least—the lowest 10 percent of earners—only about 1 in 20 had access to paid family leave.
Thankfully, there is a growing movement to demand paid family and medical leave policies. Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed policies that provide or will soon provide paid family leave, and additional states like Minnesota are currently considering legislation. Unfortunately, a state-level approach leaves many women, especially Black women, behind. The majority of Black Americans live in Southern states, which—due to universal Republican control of state legislatures—will likely never pass a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Federal action to ensure all workers have access to paid family leave is critical to address the alarming rates of maternal mental health concerns, the related maternal mortality rates, and the disproportionate harm borne by Black women and families.
This month Congress reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, which would provide workers with 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to welcome a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, or address an individual’s own serious health condition. As mothers who both experienced health complications after childbirth, we feel deeply that no woman or birthing person should have to make the impossible choice between healing from childbirth and earning a paycheck. And as researchers and advocates who study paid family leave and mental health concerns, we know conclusively that a federal paid family and medical leave program would save lives.
The following statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Washington, DC, May 17, 2023 – We applaud Chairman Sanders (I-VT), Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), and Representative DeLauro (D-CT) for reintroducing the Healthy Families Act (HFA) and for making plans to reintroduce the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act soon. Together, these bills would help working people care for themselves and their families without sacrificing their job or paycheck.
Over 20 percent of all workers and 60 percent of those paid the lowest wages – people who clean hotels, stock groceries, care for the elderly, and prepare and serve food – don’t have a single paid sick day. HFA would provide most workers with access to paid sick leave to take brief periods of time away from work when they need to attend to their and their family’s health.
Similarly, 3 in 4 workers don’t have paid family leave through their employers, while 9 in 10 of the lowest-paid workers lack this critical benefit. FAMILY would ensure that working people can take up to 12 weeks away from work to address their own serious medical illness, bond with a new child, care for seriously ill loved ones, address family circumstances arising from a military deployment, and recover or seek assistance if they are survivors of domestic violence.
These bills are critical to public health and workers’ and families’ economic security. While all workers benefit, women – and especially women of color – would experience outsized benefits because of their outsized caregiving responsibilities. Through greater employment stability, these bills would also improve earnings and employment outcomes throughout workers’ lives.
In the tightest labor market in generations, American employers have failed to even come close to meeting workers’ needs for basic paid time off. Despite some progress through state and local policies, tens of millions of workers are left with impossible choices today. Only national policymakers can fully address these failures and shortcomings. Congress should move expeditiously to pass these bills into law.
On May 17, 2023 Indivar Dutta-Gupta testified before the Joint Economic Committee to discuss the risks posed by the recent House-passed bill that would institute unprecedented and dangerous budget cuts while suspending our arbitrary federal debt limit for no longer than 10 months. The House Republican bill threatens to default on our nation’s bills and send our economy into a tailspin if Congress doesn’t cut core investments that families and communities rely on for their wellbeing and to access opportunity in this country—investments like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, income supports, education and job training, child care assistance, climate interventions, and more.
On May 11, 2023 Indi Dutta-Gupta testified before the House Budget Committee on protecting American families from attempts to hold hostage policies that support them.
This testimony first explains at a high level why many people in the United States rely on specific federal programs to achieve economic security and access economic opportunity and how federal policies—in particular—effectively meet many of these needs. Next, the testimony explains why the deep cuts mandated under the McCarthy debt ceiling bill would undermine the nation’s well-being, including through counterproductive cuts to child care, workforce development, and postsecondary education. The testimony then explains why revenues must be a major part of the answer to concerns about deficits and debt. It concludes by highlighting the dangers of failing to raise our arbitrary threshold on the amount of outstanding obligations we allow ourselves to pay and urging Congress to act swiftly to avoid this self-inflicted wound to our prosperity.
We recently marked three years since the start of the pandemic. During this extraordinary time, we have learned lessons, shared experiences, tested solutions, and revealed realities about the state of our economy, never-ending racial and gender inequities, a democracy under constant siege, and basic human fatigue. Throughout it all, CLASP has remained nimble and responsive, advancing public policy that meets human needs and upholds human dignity. At the end of the day, what we seek is impact.
We want impact that is tangible. Impact that is transformative and durable. Impact that guides our efforts at every level. For every challenge we seek to address, we want to create short- and long-term impact for the tens of millions of children and families with low incomes, working people, youth and young adults, immigrants, and communities of color across the nation.
We hold the truths that we need dramatic and fundamental changes and that people who are suffering lack the luxury of waiting for the perfect solution. We develop and support effective compromises that make our eventual goals more achievable and resist those that undermine the world we are working to create. And we never lose sight of that ultimate vision as we build the knowledge and support necessary to win victories along the way.
2022 was a year of major changes for CLASP—from the transition of long-time executive director, Olivia Golden, to the beginning of my tenure as CLASP’s new president and executive director. Ushering in a new chapter, CLASP began a journey of realigning our vision and purpose, building on more than 50 years of impact at the local, state, and national levels. We are strengthening that impact by deepening our Hill presence and our partnerships to center people, equity, and our democracy in major policy proposals.
We recognize that our struggles are interconnected and that solutions are often crosscutting. This means creating policy solutions that build systems and structures to advance equity and make our democracy more responsive to people who are marginalized and excluded. For our solutions to work, we must deepen our engagement with individuals who have lived experiences with the challenges we address as strategic thought partners and experts. For people to trust us, we must provide valuable research, analysis, and evidence.
We remain ever grateful to our extended family of partners, collaborators, and funders. Your investments—financial and otherwise—have helped CLASP navigate times of uncertainty, opportunity, and threats. As we look ahead, impact will be our North Star, guiding our internal and external strategies, advocacy priorities, and collaborations.
Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta
President and Executive Director
Support CLASP to continue more of this work in 2022 and beyond with a monthly or one-time gift that will help kids and families with low incomes become economically secure.
By Christian Collins
Accessibility and affordability of postsecondary educational opportunities remain a persistent obstacle preventing millions of Americans and their families from acquiring high-quality employment. Though unlikely to pass through Congress, President Biden’s FY2024 budget strongly signals a priority on increasing accessibility of postsecondary education at community colleges through his administration’s proposed $90 billion over 10 years for universal tuition-free community college. The budget also includes $500 million to implement a new first-dollar grant program that would lay the foundation for free community colleges. Because state-level reforms have a substantially higher likelihood of success, state governments can play an even larger role in increasing both accessibility and affordability of postsecondary education. A highly effective tool available to states is the expansion of dual enrollment programs.
Dual enrollment is the practice of students enrolling in two separate academic institutions simultaneously, most commonly with high school students taking college courses while still in high school. This practice originated in 1955 when the University of Connecticut began offering collegiate courses at area high schools and has since expanded to 82 percent of public high schools offering some version of dual enrollment.
Underfunded, but not Underutilized
Community colleges are the backbone of dual enrollment programs, as roughly 70 percent of all dual enrollment high school students take their courses through community colleges. These programs aren’t just a resource for students seeking access to affordable postsecondary education, they’ve also served to protect the health of community colleges themselves. While community college enrollment rates have continued to drop throughout the last decade, dual enrollment rates have increased. Postsecondary students aged 17 or younger had the only enrollment increases between 2020 and 2022 of any age group in undergraduate education at 9.3 percent, driven by a 12.8 percent increase in enrollment at public 2-year colleges.
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia offer state-level dual enrollment programs, but not every program is designed with equity in mind. Of the 88 state-level programs nationwide, 40 require students to contribute at least a portion of their tuition, creating a cost barrier for potential students. Twelve states don’t provide any public funds for dual enrollment programs, leaving students and their families to pay all costs by themselves.
This funding patchwork has led to inequitable access to dual enrollment opportunities based on race and family income. Nearly 13 percent of white high school students participated in dual enrollment, making them the only racial demographic with a double-digit percentage and more than doubling the rate of Black students. Schools serving higher percentages of students living in poverty offer significantly fewer dual enrollment options compared to schools with lower poverty levels, even when controlling for school size, school type, and school locale.
Program availability is also limited by cost for under-resourced schools and districts, given that common cost barriers include a lack of available equipment, fewer available staff to facilitate programs, and less physical space to provide courses. Transportation is another cost obstacle to students seeking to enroll in programs, since 24 percent of all dual enrollment students had to commute to college campuses or other high schools to take courses, with this figure rising to as high as 32 percent for students in densely populated areas. The balance of dual enrollment students took their courses either online or at their high school.
Cost barriers don’t affect just students seeking to dual enroll. The very colleges seeking to develop and implement these programs must grapple with financial issues. Tuition at community colleges for dual enrollment programs—no matter whether paid through public funds or by students themselves—is often offered at a discount compared to regular tuition rates due to state laws. Given that dual enrollment students represent nearly 20 percent of all community college students nationally, and with some states approaching 40 percent representation, that’s a significant revenue stream loss for community colleges. States must counter this shortfall through state-level funding to help ensure the financial sustainability of community colleges providing dual enrollment. Coupled with state governments chronically underfunding community colleges, some institutions don’t have the financial support needed to offer dual enrollment programs.
Dual Enrollment is Well Worth the Costs
Dual enrollment programs are arguably the largest available free college program in the country, and they represent a significant opportunity for the continued expansion of accessible and affordable postsecondary education. By contributing to increased income for graduates, helping lower unemployment rates, and generating significantly more tax revenue than they cost to run, community colleges are vital economic mobility lifelines.
Through its $200 million proposal to create a Career-Connected High Schools initiative that integrates dual enrollment into high schools across the country, the Biden Administration is prioritizing the importance of such opportunities for millions of students. States’ underfunding of community colleges has already led to significant revenue gaps compared to 4-year colleges, and allowing these gaps to persist threatens the sustainability of vital anti-poverty programs like dual enrollment. To truly improve outcomes for the next generation, states must not just match the Biden Administration’s efforts but exceed them.
This statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Washington, D.C., April 27, 2023—Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced a reimagined and strengthened Child Care for Working Families Act to address the care crisis plaguing the nation. For far too long, children, families, and providers have had to bear the burden of the broken child care sector. And the systemic racism and sexism that’s been part of the history of child care persist to this day in harming groups that have been historically marginalized. It’s beyond time to flip that script and meet the needs of all families, including those who have been excluded and harmed by policies and systems that leave millions of hardworking families unsupported. This bill begins to right those wrongs.
Currently, only 1 in 6 eligible children receive child care assistance. This bill would increase access in a big way—making more children eligible and guaranteeing care for children under 6 with a parent(s) who participates in a qualifying activity. It would also boost provider wages and supports, as well as provide resources for more accessible career pathways to help expand the child care provider workforce. The two very critical pieces of the puzzle—access for families and support for providers—are often pitted against one another at the state level due to limited federal support.
This bill would help eliminate the tensions states constantly experience, where nearly every positive policy improvement comes at the expense of something else valuable. By providing Building an Affordable System for Early Education (BASE) grants to all states, tribes, territories, and the District of Columbia, this bill would set providers and states up for success by allocating funds to every state to support child care providers, increase worker pay, and improve access for families. The bill also encompasses universal preschool, including Head Start agencies—initiatives that have proven their value in red and blue states alike. Finally, the bill provides funding to improve the duration of the Head Start program and better align it with need throughout the country.
The well-designed federal child care investments embodied in the Child Care for Working Families Act are a no-brainer. The lack of affordable, high-quality child care has limited our country’s economic potential and wellbeing for generations. The bill would improve lifelong outcomes for children and increase education, employment, and earnings among their caregivers—including both parents and child care professionals. It’s time for Congress to turn this proposal into a reality.
By Kathy Tran
Subsidized employment programs aim to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment during periods of recession. They have been an effective strategy for decades to put people to work and support economic growth. In particular, these programs have helped populations facing high rates of unemployment, including youth aged 16 to 24. However, young people need additional, dedicated federal support to ensure their success joining the workforce.
Young people experienced the highest levels of joblessness even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, they continue to face the steepest barriers to employment. From 2020 to 2023, youth ages 16 to 24 had the highest unemployment rate compared to workers aged 25 to 64. During the height of the pandemic, surveys showed that 1 in 10 young people experienced unemployment due to COVID-19-related reasons.
As Congress considers pandemic recovery efforts, policymakers should consider how a national subsidized employment program can address the youth unemployment crisis. For such a national program to meet its full potential at scale, it must center youth voices and equity at the forefront.
This brief examines the challenges youth face in the current job market and proposes recommendations for a national subsidized employment program that prioritizes equity and amplifies youth voices. The insights provided in this brief are informed by several listening sessions with members of the Communities Collaborating to Reconnect Youth Network (CCRY). CCRY is a national learning community that brings together leaders from different youth workforce systems who focus on reconnecting youth with education and career pathways.
Drawing insights from the CCRY Network, this brief provides recommendations on how decisionmakers can center youth voice and equity in the policy development and program design for a scaled-up national youth subsidized employment program.
On May 2, Indi Dutta-Gupta will speak on a plenary panel focused on postsecondary policy at National Skills Coalition’s 2023 Skills Summit in Washington, D.C.