The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict: The Poor, the Professionals, and the Missing Middle

Work-family conflict is much higher in the United States than elsewhere in the developed world.  Not only do American families work longer hours; they do so with fewer laws to support working families. Only the United States lacks paid maternity-leave laws among the 30 industrialized democracies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The only family leave available to Americans is unpaid, limited to three months, and covers only about half the labor force. Discrimination against workers
with family responsibilities, illegal throughout Europe,11 is forbidden only indirectly here.  Americans also lack paid sick days, limits on mandatory overtime, the right to request work-time flexibility without retaliation, and proportional wages for part-time work.

This report looks at work-life conflicts across all families, with the exception of the very wealthiest. Through showing the three faces of work-family conflict, our analysis points toward how we can build a stronger coalition for policies to address work-family conflict. The support of the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund allowed us to break down the relevant data sets by income. Specifically:
• Low-income families, defined as the bottom one-third of families in terms of income
• Professional-managerial families, defined as families with incomes in the top 20 percent, in which at least one adult is a college graduate—13 percent of families in 2008
• Families in the remaining percent of incomes: the Missing Middle—53 percent of families in 2008.