Can San Francisco’s Paid Parental Leave Ordinance Help Close the Gap for Low-income Families?

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Since 2004, California’s state disability insurance program has provided six weeks of parental leave at 55 percent pay (in addition to typically 6-8 weeks of postpartum disability leave for biological mothers, also at 55 percent pay). However, many parents—especially those of lower-income—cannot afford to take this bonding leave at only partial pay. San Francisco’s new Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO) addresses this issue by requiring San Francisco employers to supplement up to 100% pay for six weeks of parental bonding leave.

Building on an existing analysis of the effects of PPLO on parental leave-related outcomes and the impact on local employers, the research team will use new survey data as well as administrative data from the California State Employment Development Department to investigate:

  1. What types of employers are experiencing increased leave-taking?
  2. To what extent is PPLO providing financial protection for the most vulnerable families, such as low-income families with premature infants hospitalized for extended stays in the neonatal intensive care unit?

Measuring leave-taking across individuals at different earnings levels, as well as across firm characteristics such as size and industry, provides a much more robust ability to test whether low-income workers are benefiting, as well as to test for ongoing barriers to leave-taking in certain types of employers. Additionally, the analysis will explore remaining unmet needs under a policy providing (only) six weeks of fully paid leave.


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In a new issue brief examining the 2017 San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance, Julia M. Goodman, William H. Dow and Holly Elser find little evidence that implementing new paid family leave policies or expanding existing policies negatively affects employers.