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Culture of Health

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Paid family leave policies have the potential to reduce health disparities, yet access to paid leave remains limited and unevenly distributed in the United States. Using California administrative claims data, we examined the impact of the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance, the first in the US to provide parental leave with full pay. We found that the law increased parental leave uptake in San Francisco by 13 percent among fathers, but there was little change in leave among mothers. Data from a survey of mothers suggest that the limited impact may be partly a result of low understanding of benefits. Lower-income mothers reported even less knowledge of their maternity leave benefits than other mothers, and fewer than 2 percent of lower-income mothers had accurate information about the policy. The San Francisco policy also excludes small employers, which further limits its reach among low-income workers. A simpler universal policy may be more effective in expanding parental leave among vulnerable workers.


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