Maternity Pay (Or Lack Thereof) in the USA

This morning I read an article by the Huffington Post that reported on a recent visit to the USA by a UN delegation of 3 female human rights experts.  Their purpose? To assess gender equality in the USA.  The three women visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of US policies and attitudes as well as school, health and prison systems.  Apparently, the delegates were “appalled by the lack of gender equality in America”.  Well, the UN didn’t really need to send a delegation to come to that conclusion.  Amongst many areas of inequality, lagging behind world-wide standards, the one area that shocks me the most is paid maternity leave (or lack thereof).  The US is one of three countries in the world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave.  Yes my non-American friends, this is quite unbelievable.

I cannot imagine for you, after all the added stresses and financial burdens of infertility to then be forced to make a decision about whether or not you can afford to take the time off work or how long you can take off without your job being threatened.   Now, there are some great companies in the US who do pay a reasonable amount of paid maternity leave…but they are also probably the same companies who have great infertility insurance coverage.  The financial battle doesn’t end for the family once the baby is born!  Oh no….

By the way, I haven’t even got onto the subject of paternity leave either.

Here is a wonderful 15 minute TED talk  about how the US needs paid family leave.  It brought me to the brink of tears (but that is quite easy to do for me ;-)) and is quite compelling.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/jessica_shortall_how_america_fails_new_parents_and_their_babies.html

I myself am lucky that although I live and work in the US, my employer is international so it takes the ‘average’ of all the different countries’ maternity leave policies and agrees a reasonable amount of full time paid leave.  Although I am British, unfortunately I won’t be able to take advantage of our government’s new scheme that allows the parents to decide which parent will take the maternity leave, the mother or the father – it can also be shared if so desired!  So Chris will get his 3 days of paternity leave or whatever it is not even worth writing about, but that is all.  Guess it’s all down to me then (for a few months at least to begin with)!

 

But not all hope is lost for my future American parents of newborns, things are moving forward today, there is a push by Obama to create a federal law for a minimum of 6 weeks paid maternity leave.  If I ever get a chance to have a say or participate in any kind of advocacy for US maternity pay I will jump at the chance.  I hope you will too!

Do I spend more $$ when I am my most “fertile”?

Do I spend more money when I am my most “fertile’? Probably seems a bit of a strange question coming from someone who has been diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.  But never the less, assuming my most fertile period is when I ovulate (give or take a few days either side), do I spend more on ‘discretionary’ items?

Yesterday I heard on the radio that a Texas university discovered that ladies buy more things when they are in their fertile period of their cycle.  Well this caught my attention considering not long ago I wrote a post on the weird science of ovulation.  So yesterday I started to look at my own spending habits, and of course I have my credit card data, and my ovulation data from the 15 months, what do they look like together overlayed?  Is there any possible correlation?  I plotted ‘discretionary’ spending, which is basically any type of spending where I had a choice (I excluded groceries, bills, fuel and work expenses), against ‘peak ovulation’ days.  Ovulation day is the highest orange peak, with 2 days either side of ovulation day.  Here’s what my chart looked like….

SpendvOv

Nope…doesn’t look like much of a correlation!  But it was interesting to see my ‘waves’ of spending habits!  This analysis is really rudimentary.  What was the radio show really talking about?  There must be some particular way I need to look at spending v ovulation or perhaps I don’t fit the profile because I am actually infertile?? Haha. OK, I’m being mean to myself here.

So this evening I hunted down the source of the research…Asst. Professor Kristina Durante from University of Texas.  Here is her webpage, it has a link to all her research papers on it.  She has done a lot of interesting social science research on ovulation and social effects.  She has even given a TED Talk – Fertile, Flirty & Feisty (I love TED  Talks by the way!) her approach is all related to evolutionary theory.

It turns out her research is in fact far more in depth than the radio makes it out to be…Chinese Whispers etc.  Indeed, the paper merely discussed that ovulation affects women’s preferences, which might contribute to spending on positional goods such as cars and jewellery.  Well the majority of my ‘discretionary’ spending included decaf skinny vanilla lattes and cookies so I think we can safely say my chart is null and void.  But it was interesting anyway whilst it lasted 😎  One way to keep me busy in the 2 week wait and distract from horrible cramps and leaky vaginas – geek out!


Abstract from: Money, Status and the Ovulatory Cycle*

Each month, millions of women experience an ovulatory cycle that regulates fertility. Previous consumer research has found that this cycle influences women’s clothing and food preferences. The authors propose that the ovulatory cycle actually has a much broader effect on women’s economic behavior. Drawing on theory in evolutionary psychology, the authors hypothesize that the week-long period near ovulation should boost women’s desire for relative status, which should alter their economic decisions. Findings from three studies show that women near ovulation seek positional goods to improve their social standing.  Additional findings reveal that ovulation leads women to pursue positional goods when doing so improves relative standing compared with other women but not compared with men. When playing the dictator game, for example, ovulating women gave smaller offers to a female partner but not to a male partner. Overall, women’s monthly hormonal fluctuations seem to have a substantial effect on consumer behavior by systematically altering their positional concerns, a finding that has important implications for marketers, consumers, and researchers.

* Durante, K.M, Griskevicius, V., Cantu, S.M. & Simpson, J.A. Journal for Marketing Research, 2014