Our economy is fueled by individuals who combine work with parenting or with caring for an elderly or ailing relative. Two-thirds of families today are led by two income-earners or a single-parent wage-earner, which means no one can easily stay at home in these families—whether to take care of a sick child or elderly parent, to care for a newborn child, or even to take care of themselves in the event of a serious illness.
While the phenomenon of workers combining work with care is not new, one thing is now clear: This trend is not going to be reversed but rather will continue to accelerate. In fact, in 2010 half of all births to women under age 30 were to single mothers. If a single mom or one of the breadwinners in a two-earner family must stay at home to care for an ill child, then they may face loss of pay, loss of opportunity to advance in the workplace, or, in the worst cases, loss of a job. While these scenarios are most likely for those workers earning the lowest wages, no worker in the United States is fully protected against these possibilities.