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Making the Economy Work for Working Families

In the first two weeks of 2023, 6.8 million adults could not go to work because of caregiving responsibilities at home. At a time when employers are struggling to find workers, this common challenge is sidelining many. That’s why, in the coming months, we’re expanding our focus on family-supportive economic development policies and practices. As any working adult knows, it’s impossible to truly separate “work” from “life.” Similarly, at Fourth Economy we know that it’s impossible to separate “inclusive economic development” from “supports for working families.”

What is “family-supportive” economic development?

There is no singular definition for “working family supports,” but there are some common practices and policies that are widely recognized as positively contributing to economic security and success for families:

  1. Access to quality, affordable child care not only has short- and long-term impacts on children themselves; but also provides working families with job stability and economic security.

  2. Support for workers caring for adult family members with a disability or chronic illness can allow these individuals to continue to advance their careers.

  3. Paid family and medical leave has positive health implications for babies and parents alike and long-term financial implications for caregivers - of children or older adults.

  4. Inclusive career advancement and job training opportunities can reduce historical barriers to employment and promote racial equity.

  5. A fair and just living wage increases economic security for working families and has been shown to reduce childhood poverty and positively impact overall health and well-being.

Why does working family supports matter?

Supports for working families decrease child poverty. The expanded Child Tax Credit - part of the pandemic relief-motivated American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 - lifted 1 million children under the age of six and 1.9 million children between the ages of six and 17 out of poverty.

Supports for working families increase labor force participation, particularly for women. Paid family leave increases women’s short- and long-term labor force participation. And for Black mothers - 68 percent of whom are sole or primary household breadwinners - an estimated $3.9 billion is lost in wages yearly while on unpaid or partially paid medical or family leave.

Supports for working families improve productivity and save money in the long run for businesses. Companies that offer child care assistance for their employees see employee absences decrease by up to 30% and turnover decline by as much as 60%. With turnover costs as high as 33% of a worker’s total compensation, successful retention saves businesses money.

What’s Next for Fourth Economy?

As we continue our commitment to supporting great communities, impactful organizations, and strong economies, we strive to do so through the added lens of innovative and attainable family-supportive practices.

In the coming months, we hope to partner with communities to evaluate policies and practices that successfully support working families, produce easy-to-digest analyses of the critical importance of such supports, foster creative ideas for increased investment in family-supportive practices, and offer technical support for the implementation of these ideas.

We will continue to look to positive examples across the country - like Michigan’s Tri-Share model of public-private partnership to support child care, Hawaii’s feminist-informed economic recovery plan, and states implementing paid family leave laws - to help inform and tailor solutions that work for the communities and organizations we partner with.

We will also continue to advocate for policies and practices that support the 65 million working families in the US who make the economy work every day.


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