The AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family Leave: Report release and discussion

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Event Summary

On Tuesday, the AEI-Brookings Working Group on Paid Family Leave released their capstone report, “Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come.” At the report release event, the members of the working group discussed the report and their perspectives on paid family and medical leave.

AEI’s Aparna Mathur began by explaining the reasons for paid leave and the incomplete existing patchwork of state and private policies. The Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill then detailed some of the major issues in designing paid leave policies and presented the working group’s compromise plan. McCloskey Policy LLC’s Abby McCloskey and Columbia University’s Jane Waldfogel included their respective conservative and liberal perspectives.

The first panel, featuring Heather Boushey from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Harry Holzer from Georgetown University, and the Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves, discussed the current landscape and why paid leave needs reform.

The second panel — with the American Action Forum’s Doug Holtz-Eakin, Betsey Stevenson from the University of Michigan, and Christopher Ruhm from the University of Virginia — explored the challenges of providing paid leave and the benefits and costs of policy designs.

— Cody Kallen

Event Description

Want to ask the panel a question? Go to and enter code AEIEvent to submit a question for consideration by the moderator.

Over the past year, the AEI-Brookings Working Group on Paid Family Leave has examined the benefits and costs of paid leave and considered potential designs for federal paid family and medical leave policies. What have we learned from states’ experiences with such policies? What is the ideal length of leave, and should it come with job protection? How generous should benefits be, and how should the policy be financed?

Join us as a diverse group of experts discusses why the US needs a paid leave policy and how such a policy could be designed. The working group will highlight areas of agreement and disagreement and present a compromise paid parental leave plan that addresses these divisive elements.

Join the conversation on social media by following @AEI and @AEIecon on Twitter and Facebook.



8:30 AM
Registration and breakfast

9:00 AM
Introductory remarks:
Aparna Mathur, AEI

9:05 AM
Presentation of the report:
Aparna Mathur, AEI
Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings Institution

Further reflections on the report:
Abby M. McCloskey, McCloskey Policy LLC
Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University

9:45 AM

9:55 AM

10:10 AM
Panel I: The current landscape and why we need reform

Heather Boushey, Washington Center for Equitable Growth
Harry J. Holzer, Georgetown University

Richard V. Reeves, Brookings Institution

10:40 AM

10:50 AM
Panel II: The challenges of providing paid leave: Benefits and costs

Doug Holtz-Eakin, American Action Forum
Betsey Stevenson, University of Michigan

Christopher J. Ruhm, University of Virginia

11:20 AM

11:30 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Cody Kallen at [email protected], 202.862.5933.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Speaker Biographies

Heather Boushey is executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Her research focuses on economic inequality and public policy, specifically employment, social policy, and family economic well-being. Her latest book is Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict (Harvard University Press, 2016). The New York Times has called Dr. Boushey one of the “most vibrant voices in the field,” and Politico twice named her one of the top 50 “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics.” She writes regularly for popular media, including the New York Times’ “Room for Debate,” the Atlantic, and Democracy, and she makes frequent television appearances on Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNBC, and PBS. She previously served as chief economist for Hillary Clinton’s transition team and as an economist for the Center for American Progress, the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the Economic Policy Institute. She sits on the board of the Opportunity Institute and is an associate editor of Feminist Economics. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research and her B.A. from Hampshire College.

Doug Holtz-Eakin has a distinguished record as an academic, policy adviser, and strategist. Currently he is the president of the American Action Forum. During 2001–02, he was the chief economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), where he had also served during 1989–90 as a senior staff economist. At CEA he helped formulate policies addressing the 2000–01 recession and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. From 2003 to 2005 he was the sixth director of the Congressional Budget Office. During 2007 and 2008, he was director of domestic and economic policy for the John McCain presidential campaign. Since then he has been a commissioner on the congressionally chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and serves as an outside adviser to the US Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Holtz-Eakin has an international reputation as a scholar doing research in areas of applied economic policy, econometric methods, and entrepreneurship. He began his career at Columbia University in 1985 and moved to Syracuse University from 1990 to 2001. At Syracuse, he was trustee professor of economics at the Maxwell School, chairman of the Department of Economics, and associate director of the Center for Policy Research.

Harry J. Holzer is the John LaFarge SJ Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and an institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an affiliated scholar with the Urban Institute, and a member of the editorial board at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He is a former chief economist for the US Department of Labor and a former professor of economics at Michigan State University. Dr. Holzer has authored or edited 12 books and several dozen journal articles, mostly on disadvantaged American workers and their employers, as well as on education and workforce issues and labor market policy. He received his B.A. from Harvard in 1978 and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard in 1983.

Aparna Mathur is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2005. At AEI, her research has focused on income inequality and mobility, tax policy, labor markets, and small businesses. She has published in several top scholarly journals, testified several times before Congress, and published numerous articles in the popular press on issues of policy relevance. Her work has been cited in academic journals and leading newsmagazines such as the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Businessweek. Government organizations such as the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office have also cited her work in their reports to Congress. She has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Public Policy and has taught economics at the University of Maryland.

Abby M. McCloskey, founder of McCloskey Policy LLC, is an economist and political commentator. She is a contributor with Forbes and the Dallas Morning News. She is known for her work on economic mobility and issues affecting working parents. She serves on the board of the Human Impact, a nonprofit addressing homelessness in Dallas, and is a veteran of multiple political campaigns. She was the policy director for domestic and foreign policy on Governor Rick Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and an economic adviser to Governor Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. She has confidentially advised numerous other national campaigns, candidates, and elected officials as part of her consulting business. Previously, Ms. McCloskey was the program director of economic policy at AEI, the director of research at the Financial Services Roundtable, a staffer for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), and a policy associate with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She is widely published, with her work appearing in the Wall Street Journal, National Affairs, National Review Magazine, National Review Online, the Dallas Morning News, American Banker, Real Clear Markets, US News & World Report, Forbes, and AEIdeas, among others. She has testified before the US Congress, regularly appears on major media outlets, and is a frequent guest speaker. Ms. McCloskey holds an M.S. in applied economics from Johns Hopkins University and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in economics from Wheaton College.

Richard V. Reeves is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, policy director of the Center on Children and Families, and editor-in-chief of the Social Mobility Memos blog. His research focuses on social mobility, inequality, and family change. Before joining Brookings, he was director of strategy to the UK’s deputy prime minister. He is also a contributor to the Atlantic, National Affairs, Democracy Journal, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Dr. Reeves is the author of John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (Atlantic Books, 2008), an intellectual biography of the British liberal philosopher and politician. His previous roles include director of the London-based political think tank Demos, director of futures at the Work Foundation, principal policy adviser to the minister for welfare reform, research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, and researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. He is also a former European Business Speaker of the Year. He earned a B.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from Warwick University. With coauthor Isabel V. Sawhill, he received the “Best Policy Paper” 2014 ranking in the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Think Tank Awards.

Christopher J. Ruhm is professor of public policy and economics at the University of Virginia (UVA). He received his doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984. Before joining UVA in 2010, he held faculty positions at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Boston University, and he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Brandeis University. During the 1996–97 academic year he served as senior economist on President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, where his main responsibilities were in the areas of health policy, aging, and labor market issues. He is a research associate in health economics, health care policy, and children’s programs at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany. Dr. Ruhm has received external research funding from a diverse set of organizations including the US Department of Labor, National Science Foundation, several of the National Institutes of Health, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He is associate editor of the Southern Economic Journal, Journal of Population Economics, and International Journal of Information Security and Privacy; on the editorial board of Economics Letters and the Journal of Labor Research; on the board of directors of the American Society of Health Economists; and a steering committee member of the Southeastern Health Economics Study Group. From 2009 to 2011, he served as vice president of the Southern Economic Association.

Isabel V. Sawhill is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution. She served as vice president and director of the economic studies program from 2003 to 2006. She is a codirector with Ron Haskins of the Center on Children and Families. Before joining Brookings, Dr. Sawhill was a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. She served in the Bill Clinton administration as an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, where her responsibilities included all the human resource programs of the federal government, accounting for one-third of the federal budget. Her research has spanned a wide array of economic and social issues, including fiscal policy, economic growth, poverty, and inequality. Over the past decade, her major focus has been on how to improve opportunities for disadvantaged children in the US. Dr. Sawhill helped found the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and serves as the president of its board. She has been a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, director of the National Commission for Employment Policy, and president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. She also serves on several boards. She was a recipient of the Exemplar Award from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (2014) and, with Ron Haskins, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2016). She was named a distinguished fellow by the American Economic Association in 2016.

Betsey Stevenson is an associate professor of public policy at the Ford School at the University of Michigan, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Economics. She is also a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research, a fellow of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich, and a member of the board of directors of the American Law and Economics Association. Dr. Stevenson is a labor economist whose research focuses on the impact of public policies on the labor market, specifically women’s labor market experiences, the economic forces shaping the modern family, and the potential value of subjective well-being data for public policy. She recently completed a two-year term as an appointed member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. She served as the chief economist of the US Department of Labor from 2010 to 2011.

Jane Waldfogel is the Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children’s and Youth Problems at the Columbia University School of Social Work and codirector of the Columbia Population Research Center. She is also visiting professor at the London School of Economics. She received her Ph.D. in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 1994 and has written extensively on the impact of public policies on poverty, inequality, and child and family well-being. Her books include: Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective (Russell Sage Foundation, 2015); Britain’s War on Poverty (Russell Sage Foundation, 2013); Steady Gains and Stalled Progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score Gap (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011); What Children Need (Harvard University Press, 2010); The Future of Child Protection: How to Break the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect (Harvard University Press, 2001); and Securing the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College (Russell Sage Foundation, 2000). Her current research includes studies of poverty and social policy, work-family policies such as paid family and medical leave, and inequality in child development and achievement.

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