Kathryn Edwards is an Associate Economist at the RAND Corporation. She is a member of the . After working as a research assistant at the Economic Policy Institute from 2008-2011, Ms. Edwards attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received her Ph.D. in Economics. Along the way, Edwards was a graduate fellow of the Institute for Research on Poverty and a summer fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
As the Academy gears up for our 31st annual policy conference, Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium, I am thinking back to what we have learned from our last few conferences.
Our 2016 conference premiered the Academy’s focus on inequality. Keynote speaker Marc Pearson, Deputy Director of Employment, Labor and Social Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), reminded us that:
On Tuesday, November 7, the Academy hosted an educational forum for 30 members of a delegation of government officials from the Guangdong Province of China. The officials, representing various departments within the provincial government, were participants of Georgetown University’s Global Education Institute, which provides an executive program for Chinese provincial civil servants. Academy members and staff provided an overview of four key areas of the American system of social insurance.
As states work on the development of new paid family and medical leave systems, they face critical design choices with respect to system architecture, funding, and administration. With regard to system architecture, the main choices are between a social insurance approach and an employer mandate, although there are gradations between the two. In a social insurance approach, risk and resources are pooled broadly across virtually all workers in a state. In an employer mandate system, employers are required to offer insurance to their workers but can either self-insure, purchase insurance from a private carrier, or participate in a state fund, if one exists in their state.
In recent decades, women have entered the work force in droves, making substantial contributions to families’ financial stability. As a result, however, the once common figure of a stay-at-home caregiver is rapidly diminishing, and families are left to fill in the gaps. Despite increasing responsibilities outside the home, women still also shoulder the primary responsibility of both caregiving for children and for ill or aging adult family members. Increasing pressure to make ends meet with less time and stagnant wages is taking both a financial and emotional toll on working families.
As part of the Academy’s continued focus on income and wealth inequality, expert panelists convened at the National Press Club on June 21st for Advancing Equity and Inclusion through Social Insurance, three discussions that explored how public policies can bolster American family stability in an evolving economy. Recognizing how economic opportunity and mobility are affected by entrepreneurship, paid time away from work for caregivers, and the entrenched wealth divide between whites and people of color, panelists affirmed that social insurance programs provide a critical safety net for risk-taking, retirement planning, and family caregiving.
As this particularly harsh winter draws to a close, millions of American workers have again spent another flu season faced with the challenge of choosing between paid work and caring for themselves or sick loved ones. According to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month, nearly 2.9 million full-time workers worked only part-time this past January due to illness-related absences and another 1.2 million traditionally full-time workers missed a week of work entirely.