As If We Needed It, Evidence that Delaying Social Security to Get Paid Leave Benefits Is A Terrible Idea

A few months ago, Ivanka Trump and Senator Marco Rubio started pitching a plan that would allow people to delay their Social Security retirement benefits in order to receive paid family leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. As we noted at the time, the plan, which would operate out of the Social Security system, would offer workers a dangerous choice between something they need right now and something they need down the road. And we observed that this choice is particularly fraught for women, because they are both more likely to need paid leave (because they are primary caregivers more often than men are) and more likely to rely on Social Security in retirement (because of things like the wage gap and, you know, the patriarchy).
So yesterday, researchers released a report that considered the impact of such a proposal (looking specifically at a plan put forth by a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum). That proposal assumed 12 weeks of paid leave, with total average benefits of about $4,300 ($4,000 for women). The researchers looked at the impact of taking 12 weeks of leave upon future Social Security benefits, and found that “participants in the proposed leave program would have to delay collecting Social Security retirement benefits for about twice as many weeks as they collected paid leave.” And the study also concluded that the proposal would undermine the Social Security program overall.
Just so we’re clear, this analysis shows that, contrary to the blithe predictions of this plan’s proponents, people would be penalized at retirement for having taken paid leave under this proposal. And women would feel the brunt of this penalty: the researchers projected that women would be about twice as likely to take paid leave under this proposal than men. The upshot is that this proposal asks parents, and disproportionately mothers, to act against their future economic self-interest. And on top of all that, it would undermine a critical program that prevents millions of women and families from falling into poverty every year. We said it before and we’ll say it again: We can’t let ourselves be forced into a series of false choices. We deserve better.