For a party that prides itself on the family unit, the Republican Party is often hesitant to embrace policies that promote the development of healthy families. The party’s current platform, adopted in 2016 and preserved without amendments in 2020, argues for the elimination of federal policies that financially incentivize cohabitation over marriage. It rightfully argues for marriage penalties to be removed from the nation’s welfare programs and tax code. Despite this, the platform’s solution is “[recognizing] marriage as the union of one man and one woman and actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society.”
When couples decide to hold off on having kids or getting married, they rarely cite, if ever, the legality of same-sex marriage as their reason; rather, it often lies in economic conditions. As the United States faces a record-low population-growth rate and a decreasing fertility rate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Party needs to focus its legislative efforts on creating better economic conditions for America’s future families. Luckily, the Republican Party already has a proposal on the table that may be an important piece of the puzzle: Senator Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act.
The Family Security Act would consolidate and streamline the federal government’s assistance program for families by providing direct cash relief on a monthly basis for qualifying Americans. Through an overhaul of the Child Tax Credit, as well as the elimination of multiple overlapping assistance programs, the revamped program would remain deficit-neutral while providing monthly payments of $350 for children aged 0-5 and $250 for children aged 6-17. Annual benefits are phased out by $50 for every $1,000 above the current thresholds of $200,000 for single-filers and $400,000 for joint-filers. The Institute for Family Studies found that Senator Romney’s proposal removes marriage penalties from the nation’s welfare system; most importantly, they found that the plan could cause a reduction in abortions by providing these benefits during pregnancy.
These benefits mean nothing, however, if the newborn passes away in its infancy. Infant mortality, an issue tackled by many developed nations, is still a problem in the United States. The national infant mortality rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live infant births is significantly higher than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live infant births. With a ranking of 33 out of 36 among fellow OECD nations, the United States is severely lagging behind developed nations in tackling this issue. As the only OECD nation without paid maternity leave for mothers, it is quite possible that the infant mortality rate could be lowered by instituting paid maternal leave. In fact, multiple studies point to the lack of paid maternity leave as the problem.
The benefits of paid maternity leave far outweigh the potential monetary costs. Only 16% of private-sector employees have access to paid maternity leave, and eight states have publicly funded paid maternity leave. Americans with access to these benefits often have lower rates of postpartum depression and infant mortality than their counterparts. Further, children see greater academic success and behavioral development when their parents utilize paid maternity leave. Lower-income households were less likely to utilize paid-maternity leave, as income replacement was less likely to be sufficient for raising a child. However, with the Family Security Act, low-income households would benefit from higher rates of childbearing and paid maternity leave due to the increased monthly cash flow.
Whether through state action or federal law, there is a visible path forward for the Republican Party to support America’s families. Fear of electoral isolation is not an excuse for the party considering the popular support behind such proposals. If progress is to be made on conserving the role of families in America, the Republican Party must embrace a solution that goes beyond the federal definition of marriage.