Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

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Trading retirement security for access to paid parental leave

Across parties, politicians are showing increased interest in developing policies around paid family and medical leave, especially for new parents.  The latest creative example is Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s Economic Security for New Parents Act, backed by the Independent Women’s Forum, a politically conservative US non-profit advocacy organization. The bill would allow households with a new child (biological or adopted) to access Social Security benefits to cover their parental leave, in exchange for delaying receipt at retirement. The proposal has received little support from Democrats or the public, yet it is noteworthy that Republicans are offering new ideas for addressing the changing nature of and needs of modern families – for instance, the mother is the sole or primary earner in 40% of families with children under age 18 (2013 Pew report) – for paid leave after the arrival of a child. The United States is an outlier, late to the recognition that economic instability during family formation is a public problem worthy of a public response. Research shows the benefits of such paid leave for mothers, fathers, children, and employers.  The dominant policy around the globe and in seven US states is publicly run social insurance, under which workers and/or employers contribute to a fund accessed by workers during their leave.

Questioning Citizenship and the Undermining of the US Census

On September 21, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to make its main official behind the 2020 census citizenship question — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — available to testify out of court for the lawsuits over the hotly contested question.  More than two dozen cities and states have filed lawsuits to try to remove the question.  The Gender Policy Report sat down with demographer Sara Curran to get some background on the Census and the inclusion of an immigration question in 2020.

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Does Mandatory Sexual Misconduct Training Make Campuses Safer?

A 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter issued by Barack Obama’s Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed that sexual violence in educational institutions constitutes a Title IX violation. The letter reminded colleges that Title IX and Clery Act compliance – and continued federal funding -requires on-campus training programs to prevent and reduce sexual assault and harassment. As the schools struggled to end the problem of sexual misconduct, they mandated students, staff, and faculty to participate in online or in-person trainings. All of this prompted our team to ask the rather straightforward question: Does mandatory training actually help change campus climates and reduce sexual misconduct?

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Shaming and Blaming Mothers Under the Law

The perfect mother is a ubiquitous, if impossible, part of American life. We see her in spandex at the gym, working out—self-care!—a week after delivering twins. She’s at center-stage when internet experts opine about how mothers can prevent teenagers’ opioid addictions. In the shadow of this unattainable, idealized vision of a mother as a virtual guarantor of their children’s health and happiness, actual mothers berate themselves for falling short of perfection, feeling ashamed and inadequate. In the American legal system, the pervasive stereotype of the perfect mother can lead to serious consequences, dramatically distorting the judgments of police, prosecutors, judges, and jurors.

Bringing Women to the Table in California’s Corporations

Gender quotas for corporate boards raise the proportion of female directors, because waiting for companies to voluntarily add women to their boards has proven an extremely long-game. In fact, even threatening companies with quotas can boost women’s appointments. As California considers the move, Europe provides evidence of its effectiveness.This August, California could become the first U.S. state to adopt gender quotas for corporate boards. The potentially precedent-setting bill has passed the state Senate, but opposition has emerged as the state Assembly begins deliberations. The deputy editorial editor of the Los Angeles Times referred to the measure as “social engineering at its worst,” and the California Chamber of Commerce argued the bill would reduce efforts to achieve workplace diversity by privileging gender over other identities. But the research is clear: state regulation is the only proven effective tool for speeding up women’s appointment to corporate board positions.

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Variation in Title X Leads to Contraception Deserts

Title X of the Public Health Service Act is the only federal program devoted exclusively to family planning and reproductive health care. Title X is symbolic of the mid-20th century’s widespread and bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing access to affordable contraception. More recently, the once-separate politics of abortion and contraception have converged. Just as we see a growing number of “abortion-free zones,” we are witnessing the growth of contraception deserts, or geographic areas with inequitable access to affordable family planning due to states’ broad discretion in Title X implementation. New and proposed reforms to Title X at the state and federal levels may expand contraception deserts. This inequality isn’t trivial. Two-thirds of reproductive age women in the U.S. use contraception, and more than 20 million women require the assistance of public programs to afford that contraception.