Paid leave and child care policy mandates make women differentially more expensive to employ. And then? Vanessa Brown Calder speaks to Caleb Brown in a Cato podcast, after discussing the issue in an earlier blog post:
Though the United States doesn’t have a federally-mandated paid leave policy, it did enact a federally mandated unpaid leave policy, Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), in 1993. And despite FMLA being an accepted part of the modern legislative fabric, the consequences of the policy are not all stellar. Analysis suggests women hired after the policy are five percent more likely to be employed but eight percent less likely to be promoted.
Though the U.S. hasn’t adopted a paid leave mandate, a few states have. Research on policy outcomes in California show female labor force participation rising after implementation of paid leave (maybe good?) and childbearing-aged female unemployment and unemployment duration rising, too (unambiguously bad). This is probably because the mandate made women universally more expensive in employer’s eyes, whether professional women intend to use benefits or not.
In the end, free benefits are not free. Notes Calder in the podcast: “Over the course of women’s lives, they are actually paying the price for some of these policies, and that’s something that is not part of the current debate.”