URBANA, Ill. – The state of Illinois has experienced a consistent decrease in the population since 2014. A new report from the University of Illinois suggests statewide paid parental leave policy could be the part of the answer to reversing the flood of residents out of the state and invigorating population growth.
Karen Kramer, assistant professor of human development and family studies in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I, writes about the impact paid parental leave might have on families and individuals and is a co-author of the online report, included in the Project for Middle Class Renewal at U of I.
In the report, Kramer and colleagues draw on research showing the benefits of paid parental leave for children and families, and for employers, from studies conducted both in Europe and the United States. They suggest that offering a paid parental leave policy in Illinois could establish the state as a “family-friendly” state compared with other Midwest states, attracting young families to come to Illinois—and stay.
Kramer explains that young adults who have recently completed college, are entering their careers, and who may be starting families, are one of the most significant population groups leaving the state. At the same time, she adds, this demographic is looking for supportive state policies that allow them to be attentive parents and successful employees.
“In order to create something that supports the agenda of the millennial, stakeholders need to think about how to support family-friendly policy,” she says. “Illinois is in a great position to do just that. When we look at the Midwest, we are surrounded by states that do not have family-friendly policy and are not likely to promote it. If anything, we should be the state to promote it and others might follow.”
Kramer notes that by not keeping recent graduates in Illinois, the state loses the investment made in those individuals. “We have one of the best education systems and we invest a lot in our students. But what happens with these students is that after we invest in them, they are going out of the state.
“We need to make the stakeholders understand what is happening here with this migration of young adults,” Kramer adds. “If we can think about investing in and incentivizing those families to stay in the state, just after college, not only will it create tax revenue but it will also invigorate the state’s human capital and future growth.”
If young adults are leaving Illinois after they graduate college, where are they going?
In the report, Kramer and her colleagues note five states that have become most popular for those leaving Illinois: Indiana and Texas in the top spots, followed by Florida, California, and Wisconsin. Those moving to Indiana cite taxes and housing costs as the main reasons.
“When we looked at where they go, we were actually surprised. Not all of these states necessarily have lower taxes. If you talk about taxes, California definitely has higher taxes, but it’s perceived that when they go to California, they will get benefits for the taxes they pay,” Kramer says. California is one of few states that has a paid family leave program.
Kramer and her co-authors suggest in the report that paid parental leave policy in Illinois is the first step in showing residents that they will receive a return on the taxes they pay. This could also serve as a way to attract new individuals and families to the state, she says.
“Of course, in the short term, we would need to find resources to support paid parental leave policy, but for the long term, by keeping young people in the state who will pay taxes, it will support itself. We definitely need more research to understand how it creates more revenue for the long term,” Kramer says. “It needs to be part of a ‘bundle’ of other things that create an attractive place to come to and stay at.”
Kramer has conducted previous studies showing the benefits of paid parental leave on mothers and fathers. One recent study shows that when fathers took as few as five days of paid leave after the birth of a child, they had higher life and job satisfaction and the mothers experienced greater family relationship satisfaction. Other research has shown that when both parents are using paid parental leave, there are beneficial effects on maternal health outcomes, and on family well-being.
“There is a lot more to do in terms of research into how we can make it work to benefit everyone,” Kramer says. “For me, I think the benefits will outweigh the costs. It will benefit families, it will benefit the children. Most importantly perhaps, if we value families, it’s the right thing to do.”
The report, “Is Illinois Ready for Paid Parental Leave?” is included in the Project for Middle Class Renewal, a project of the School of Labor and Employment Relations at University of Illinois.