When Chelsea Clinton first announced that she was pregnant in April, she beamed at the prospect of becoming a mother. “I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child and hopefully children as my mom was to me,” she said at the time.
Now, after giving birth to her daughter Charlotte on Friday, Clinton will have access to many tools that may make it easier for her to achieve that end. Unfortunately, these tools are not widely available to many mothers living in the United States.
Here are three things that Chelsea Clinton will likely have access to that many other mothers in the United States don’t have access to or can’t afford.
Clinton recently quit her job as a special correspondent for NBC News, where she reportedly received a $600,000 salary for each of her three years there. While it’s not clear how much she makes in her current position at the non-profit Clinton Foundation, it’s safe to say that she and her husband Marc Mezvinsky, an investment banker, will be able to afford child care for their new daughter while both of them are at work.
For many families, though, this isn’t the case. Child care is extremely expensive, representing the biggest single expense for a household in the Northeast, Midwest, and South — more than rent, food, and some public college tuition. This can be a big problem for single or working parents, who need somewhere for their children to be while they go to their jobs.
Government assistance for families who can’t afford child care has also recently hit a decade-long low. Over the last 20 years, while other countries have significantly ramped up how much they spent on child care — from .35 percent of GDP to .47 percent on average — U.S. spending on child care has only went up from .03 percent to just .11. The U.S. almost had universal child care in the 1970s, passing both the U.S. House and Senate, but the bill was vetoed by President Nixon. The issue hasn’t gotten much play since.
Along with Clinton being able to afford child care, it’s also safe to say that the Clinton Foundation — named after her and her parents — will allow her to take a paid maternity leave if she chooses. This is a luxury that only 12 percent of American workers currently have.
In the United States, new parents — mothers or fathers — aren’t guaranteed any paid time off. Parents are guaranteed up to 12 weeks off after the arrival of a child if they have worked for a company with more than 50 employees for a certain amount of time, but that time is unpaid. The conditions set on guaranteed unpaid time off means that less than half of all workers in the United States are covered by unpaid leave when a new child arrives.
As ThinkProgress’ Bryce Covert has pointed out, our policy of no guaranteed paid time off for new parents puts us in lonely company. Out of 185 countries, only the United States, Oman, and Papua New Guinea don’t guarantee paid maternity leave. In addition, 70 countries — including Australia, Iceland, and Kenya — offer paid paternity leave, while the U.S. does not.
Skirting The ‘Motherhood Penalty’
Also because of Clinton’s authority over her own job and the amount of money she makes, she likely won’t have to deal with what’s known in America as the “motherhood penalty.” In layman’s terms, this is a sociological reference to what happens to women in the workplace after they have a child — they are seen as less competent, receive disadvantages in pay, and are given less benefits.
According to a report from the think tank Third Way — which happens to have been founded by former staffers of Bill Clinton’s administration — a woman’s wages decrease by about 4 percent for each child she has, even when things marital status, work hours, and past experience are taken into account.
This problem is magnified for women earning the lowest wages — they see their pay decrease by nearly 7 percent for each child — but actually reverses for women in the highest income levels. Those women, like Clinton, actually get a wage boost from having children. The report found that the second-highest women earners a 1.7 percent wage boost for each child they have, while those at the very top bracket get a 5.4 percent increase.