In a Q&A session with the New Republic, Betsey Stevenson discusses the impact new policies to support working families—such as paid sick and maternity leave, and universal pre-kindergarten—could have, both on families and the economy.
Stevenson, who is currently on leave from the University of Michigan to serve on President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, contends policies that provide support for families don’t just have social value, they can also have positive economic benefits.
In the Q&A, “An Obama Economist Explains How to Help Working Moms,” Stevenson argues that the U.S.'s lack of policies supporting working families has pushed skilled, experienced workers—women, much of the time, though not exclusively—from the labor force.
“In the 44 years since 1970, women have outpaced men in college degrees, have caught up with and outpaced men in graduate degrees, have caught up with men in terms of workplace tenure,” said Stevenson. “When women face this bind of trying to balance young kids with a job, it’s at a time when they have an enormous amount of skills. If they can’t figure out how to make everything work, it’s not just a loss to them. It’s actually a loss to the economy.”
Instituting policies like paid parental leave, paid maternity leave, workplace flexibility, and childcare assistance allow women easier access and re-entry to the labor force, she says.
Betsey Stevenson is an associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and a member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Her research explores women's labor market experiences, the economic forces shaping the modern family, and the potential value of subjective well-being data for public policy.