Sunday, November 09, 2014

Paternity leave, even when offered, is often not taken; the effects of leave policies on the careers of parents and non-parents alike

The New York Times Sunday Business offers a detailed essay by Claire Cain Miller on paid paternity leave, and the idea that not many men feel comfortable taking it even if offered.  The title in print is : The leave seldom taken: When a new father takes time off from work, his whole family can benefit. But maybe his career won’t – at least until a stigma is erased, link here
The article explains how some Silicon Valley companies, especially, have been aggressive in promoting it as a benefit, as have some law firms.  More interesting is the degree of intimacy possible from new fathers in marriage, when there is a presumption that the father should share more of the child care than used to be the case in the past, so that the wife can also go to work.  The child seems to benefit.  Previous reports have indicated that father’s testosterone levels drop when they care for children.  The Family Research Council has tried to exploit this fact in attacking gay marriage, but I don’t know if there are any studies on the performance of MLB or NFL players right after they become fathers.  (Pitchers, it seems, do quite well.) 
That brings up related questions: is the leave offered for adoption (usually yes).  That opportunity could benefit same-sex couples, if the expectation (as well as the permission) for gay adoption increases in the future, given other policy issues (foster care, orphans, refugees and immigration). 
Still, many men do not experience the profound marital intimacy (the family bed) that paid paternity leave seems to promote. 
That also begs a question of logic.  If people are given more paid time off for successful heterosexual intercourse, that means that those who don’t experience it wind up subsidizing it.  The money has to come from other people’s pay.  This is more serious in a salaried environment where people aren’t paid overtime, and work more hours for nothing if they pick up the slack for someone who is out.  Salaried environments in the past have tended to encourage a lot of “personal ownership” of work responsibilities which is less now than it was. 
Yet, in Europe, paid maternity and paternity leave seems to go pretty well without much social tension, including adverse effects on gay men.
The video above, from the University of Rochester, takes a libertarian take on the unintended consequences of mandating maternity and paternity leave, which can wind up weakening the careers of parents more when mandated than if voluntary. 

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