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What’s the ideal amount of time for paid parental leave?

A parent holds the hand of their newborn child
A parent holds the hand of their newborn child
China Photos/Getty Images

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Paid parental leave is having a moment.

Two LA City Council members just proposed a plan that would provide 18 weeks of 100 percent paid family leave. Governor Newsom’s budget proposal included a plan for six months of paid parental leave. Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation garnered some attention earlier in the month for cutting down its year long paid leave to six months and adding a stipend that new parents can spend on childcare costs.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not mandate paid parental leave, though in California, eligible employees can take six weeks off while receiving around 60 percent of their pay.

And while doctors usually recommend at least three months of parental leave to benefit the baby, the conversation is not just rooted in public health policy, but also in economics. What length of time allows parents, especially women, to successfully reintegrate into the workforce? What kind of policy won’t de-incentivize companies from hiring women in the first place? Is there such a thing as too long parental leave? If you’re a parent, what was your experience with parental leave?


Aparna Mathur, economist at AEI where she directs the AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family and Medical Leave

Will Dow, health economist and interim dean of the school of public health at UC Berkeley