Exciting new research demonstrates that New York’s groundbreaking paid family leave program, which passed in 2016 and began paying benefits in 2018, has an incredible impact on infant health. The new study joins an existing robust body of literature on the health benefits of paid leave.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrates that New York’s paid family leave program was associated with an astonishing nearly 30% reduction in infant RSV bronchiolitis and acute lower-respiratory tract infection-related hospitalizations among infants younger than eight weeks! In 2018, parents were eligible for up to eight weeks of paid family leave (the program now provides for up to twelve weeks of paid family leave per year) for bonding during the first year of their child’s life, which many parents likely took immediately following birth.
Because RSV hospitalizations in older babies (those outside the bonding window) did not change in the same period, the researchers concluded that the drop in infections and hospitalizations in infants during their first eight weeks of life was very likely attributable to their parents’ ability to take paid family leave. The researchers hypothesize that the reduction in infections and hospitalizations is due to paid family leave allowing parents to delay placing their child in out-of-home childcare—a significant risk factor for respiratory infections, especially during the vulnerable early weeks of a child’s life.
The study also points to the important work still left to be done in New York. As the study highlights, only about 40% of parents who welcomed a new baby during the studied period took New York paid family leave. This suggests that if more parents took the paid family leave they are entitled to, the impact on infant health statewide could be even greater, pointing to the need for greater outreach and education about the law.
This study highlights the impact of New York’s paid family leave program and provides invaluable insight for policymakers across the country. Since New York passed its paid family leave law in 2016, seven additional states and D.C. have followed suit, bringing the total number of states with paid family leave laws to eleven plus the District of Columbia. This new research demonstrates that these states’ efforts make our communities healthier and stronger. It should also be a call to action—the federal government and state governments in states without paid leave must act to ensure families throughout the country never have to choose between the health of their children and their economic security.
A Better Balance was proud to lead the fight to pass New York’s paid family leave law in 2016 and has been working to ensure workers know about and can use their rights ever since. Building from this success, we continue to work around the country at the state and federal level to pass paid leave laws to ensure working people can be there for their families when it matters most. We won’t stop fighting until every American has the paid leave they need.