In the United States, there is no federally mandated maternity leave, and just less than half of American women qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. Only three states — California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey — offer any form of guaranteed paid maternity leave whatsoever, making the U.S. one of only seven UN member states without paid maternity leave.
Whether you are a couple losing half its household income, or a single mother losing her earning power, you can’t factor in the cost of having a baby in the U.S. without talking about lost wages. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of having a child takes the equivalent of $295,000, or 15% of earnings out of the pockets of working mothers, over their lifetime. This is due to a lack of affordable childcare that results in women taking more time off from their day jobs to do the necessary but unpaid work of child-rearing. The study goes on to assert that highly educated women in good-paying skilled professions actually lose more money than low-wage earners over their lifetime to the tune of $420,000, however, less educated women on the lower end of the earning spectrum who stand to lose $122,000 to $202,000 in wages feel this loss more deeply since it equates to anywhere from 19% to 26% of their lifetime earnings.