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U.S. Ranks 5th Among Best Places to Raise a Child

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The U.S. ranks fifth globally among best places to raise a child, according to the inaugural Parenting Index from food and beverage firm Nestlé, coming in behind Sweden, Chile, Germany and Mexico. The Parenting Index used 11 factors, from financial resilience to parenting confidence to absence of pressure, to gauge the ease of parenting in 16 countries across the world.

In the U.S., parents of newborns generally feel positive. Though U.S. parents are aware they have access to resources to support their health and well-being, they want more parental leave and greater shared parenting responsibilities.

Paid maternity leave policy lacking in U.S.

The global average for paid maternity leave is about 18 weeks, according to Nestlé, but the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t have maternity leave legislation — though the current White House administration is proposing to change that.

While some parents may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), only 60% of workers are eligible, according to Nestlé. But employees are only paid part of their salary under FMLA, and not all families can afford this.

Meanwhile, about 40% of U.S. employers offer either paid maternity or paternity leave, according to Nestlé, but only 9% offer paid paternity leave.

Of the 11 factors used in the Parenting Index, financial resilience had the second-greatest weight at 16.7% of the index score. And according to the Nestlé research, 57% of parents in the U.S. — top among the countries examined — felt medical costs were too high.

How new parents can fund maternity or paternity leave

Parents who want to take off more time or don’t have good workplace options for paid leave can look for financial support in other ways:

  • Create a savings fund to cover any newborn expenses or unpaid time off.
  • Talk to your employer to see if you can use vacation or paid time off (PTO) days as part of your leave.
  • Consider taking out a personal loan. Personal loans are generally flexible and can be used in various ways, including covering expenses for newborns.
  • Reach out to your support network. This might include parents, family friends or fellow parents. See if they can offer you child care or help around the house.

While taking time off to care for a baby is expensive, it’s doable. Having the financial resources to be fully present to take care of your baby can be a reality, and a bit of research and planning can help you get there.

Methodology: Switzerland-based Nestlé commissioned Kantar in January and February 2020 to survey parents of babies 12 months or younger across 16 countries. The survey was conducted in two stages. The first included 8,045 interviews. The second, to assess potential implications of the coronavirus pandemic on the index, included 900 interviews in July 2020.