The health benefits of California’s paid family leave policy is largely out of reach for low-income women and women of color and their infants. This new report analyzes how California’s leaders can improve the state’s program to support the health and wellbeing of communities of color and low-income communities.


Poverty and systemic racism have no silver bullet. However, an inclusive paid family leave policy that addresses the specific needs of California’s low-income communities and communities of color will help close inequities for these families statewide:

  • Black women in California are three to four times more likely to die after giving birth than white women.

  • While Black, Latina, and low-income women are more likely to experience symptoms of postpartum depression, they are less likely to have access to care.

  • Prolonged and acute poverty in the early stages of life and can affect a baby’s birth weight, infant mortality risk, language development, brain development, access to nutritious foods, and risk of chronic illnesses.

Improving California’s policy means low-income families and families of color could have an opportunity to properly heal, bond, and avoid falling deeper into poverty, as well as inform national leaders on the design of a federal paid family and medical leave program that benefits all families.


• Expand the Duration of the Program: Health experts recommend at least six months for optimal child and maternal health and wellness.

• Provide Full Wage Replacement, Especially for the Lowest-Income Californians: Impacted people and child policy advocates and experts understand that raising the rate of wage replacement for low-income families means that more families don’t have to choose between rent, food, transportation, and family.

• Implement Job Protection: This is especially important in low-wage industries where worker violations and retaliation are more prevalent. Job protection will give families the peace of mind they deserve to bond with their children during infancy.

• Invite Impacted People to Participate In California’s Paid Family Leave Taskforce: The voices of people whose lives will be most affected by this policy need to be at the decision-making table in order to design sound policy.


We asked low-income mothers and mothers of color what a 6 month, job protected, full wage replacement paid leave program would mean to them:

“With a policy like this, you would have the ability to affect generations of families, employment, the state of California, and the nation. It would make a difference in the stability of kids, their education, literacy rates, graduation rates — all those things. It’s so important to give children a foundation and be present with them before they have to go to school. I also think that whatever parents are present, whether it’s just mom or just dad, or whoever it is, it’s important that they feel supported. Because it’s hard to be there for your children when you’re struggling. It’s hard to care for someone when you’re not well, stressed out, trying to figure out financials — it’s just difficult.”

— Marcella, Fresno Housing Authority Focus Group Participant

“I think it would be great so we could bond with our child, and even the husband can bond — the whole family could bond. We wouldn’t have to worry about how to pay all the bills, the only stressor would be: are we going to get enough sleep or not? It would be nice to not have to stress and make sacrifices between food and other necessities. By passing this law, they would impact whole families. Families wouldn’t have to depend on welfare or government money because we would have access to our regular income, something we have earned from working for years. This would also make a difference for the children. Children would feel nurtured by both parents, they would probably grow up knowing they are loved and build trusting relationships with their parents.”

— Flor, Fresno Housing Authority Focus Group Participant



Our new report examines the link between California’s paid family leave program and the health of low-income families and families of color.