Heidi Hartmann, the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), agreed that the data squared with trends she’s observed.

“When you look at the data on who has paid leave and who doesn’t, it’s the highest-income workers who get the most benefits,” she said. “And as we all know, men make more than women, and they are also often in higher-level positions. So I’m really not surprised.”

Paid family leave benefits high-income white workers most

One reason why Zagorsky thinks we haven’t seen more women eligible for maternity leave use it in the past 20 years is because it’s often associated with a cut in pay. Most state-run family leave programs fall under the umbrella of a disability program, which he says is a problem.

“Disability systems are designed so when people get hurt they don’t get a full replacement salary,” he said. “And when a new baby is born, that’s when your expenses go up dramatically, so to be offered, at that point, disability and only collect half pay can be very financially dramatic for a family.”

What’s more, if a woman goes on maternity leave, she isn’t, in many cases, guaranteed to have the same job when she’s ready to go back to work.

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