Research Report Parents’ Access to Work-Family Supports
Shirley Adelstein, H. Elizabeth Peters
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Three work-family supports—paid leave, workplace flexibility and control, and support for child care—are crucial to the ability of parents to effectively manage work and family. This research used national survey data to examine patterns in working parents’ access to these supports; variations in access by parental characteristics like socioeconomic advantage; and the need for these work-family supports among working parents.

Key considerations for policy and research include the following:

  • The need for work-family supports is widespread, but access to them is uneven.
  • Parents need work-family supports for reasons not addressed in prominent public policy debates. For example, half of parents reported changing their work schedule or location (during the previous week) to attend to errands or personal matters. This suggests that a broader discussion around leave and workplace flexibility and control may be needed to ensure that all parents can maintain employment while caring effectively for their children.
  • Employer support for child care appears more limited than for leave or workplace flexibility and control, leaving a gap for public policy to fill.

This report is part of the Understanding Gaps in the Path to Good Work-Family Outcomes project, which the Urban Institute produced as a member of the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community. The project was motivated by the need for a holistic perspective on how public and employer policies interact to fill gaps in the supports parents need to attend to their children’s well-being while also meeting employer needs. In addition to Parents’ Access to Work-Family Supports, the project has produced another report, Employers, Work-Family Supports, and Low-Wage Workers. The entire project and Urban’s first two years as a member of the Aspen Family Prosperity Innovation Community were funded by a grant from the Aspen Institute, which has been supported to launch Family Prosperity by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Research Areas Families Social safety net Children and youth
Tags Families with low incomes Economic well-being Workers in low-wage jobs Parenting Work-family balance Beyond high school: education and training Kids in context Paid leave
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population