Minnesota passed a paid leave program earlier today. This is the thirteenth time Democrats have passed one of these programs on the state level and every single one of them is designed specifically to exclude from eligibility a large minority of new mothers, especially the poor. Minnesota had a chance to break from this mold but the same advocates the delivered the other garbage programs delivered yet another one.
In other countries, parental leave programs are commonly designed such that all new parents receive a cash benefit equal to some percentage of their prior earnings or some minimum amount, whichever is greater in their case. But Minnesota’s plan has no minimum benefit and entirely excludes all new parents who did not earn $3,500 in the 12 months leading up to birth.
According to the latest American Community Survey data, 22 percent of Minnesota women between the ages of 18 and 45 do not satisfy this work history requirement. Individuals who are not likely to satisfy the requirement include students, disabled people, and those facing an unluckily-timed spell of unemployment.
Here is how the MN work history requirement stacks up against other states with similar programs.
|State||Work History Needed in Prior Year|
|CT||Earn $2,325 in Highest Quarter|
|DE||Work 1,250 Hours|
|MD||Work 680 Hours|
|NJ||Earn $12,000 or Work 20 Weeks & Earn $4,800|
|NY||Work 26 Weeks at 20 Hours Per Week or Work 175 Days|
|OR||Work 25 Hours Per Week for 180 Days|
|RI||Work 52 Weeks at 30 Hours Per Week|
|WA||Work 820 Hours|
It would be trivially easy to fix this problem. Adding a single paragraph to the statute that said that any new parent who is not otherwise eligible for the earnings-related benefit will instead be eligible for a minimum benefit would get the job done. But paid leave advocates flatly do not care about these exclusions. I know because I have talked to many of them over the years, asking them about this problem, asking them if they’d help to resolve it, especially in states that are on the cusp of passing legislation, and the answer, after some hemming and hawing, is always no.
In a way, there is something to admire in the naked class politics of it all. Professional class advocates are securing benefits for themselves and could not care less if other kinds of people are left out.
But others really should care about the parents and kids left out in the cold by these regimes. They need money to help keep them afloat while they care for their newborns just as much as professional class parents do. In fact, in most cases, they need it more.
There is also something a little bit perverse about a nominally contributory social insurance scheme that excludes from eligibility many of those that contribute to the scheme. Just because someone did not earn $3,500 in the 12 months immediately preceding a birth does not mean that they never contribute taxes into the program. A young parent who gives birth prior to joining the workforce will be denied benefits when they are caring for their newborn and then charged 1.1 percent of everything they earn for the rest of their life to finance the program that was not there for them when they needed it.