Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, the United States is the only wealthy country without a nationwide paid parental leave policy. Even though nearly half of all two-parent families have both parents working full-time, only 21% of US workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, according to Pew Research Center data from 2015.

This absence of provision stands in stark contrast to Europe, where paid parental leave is the norm. Paid parental leave, according to research, has undeniable advantages for parents, children, and the societies of the countries that provide it. Paid parental leave has considerable support in the United States; according to academic research published in April, around 82 percent of Americans approve it. This number has remained relatively steady throughout time, and it includes support from all major political parties. The reasons for the United States’ prolonged status as an outlier on paid parental leave are complex, combining post-World War II needs with a complex national cultural identity of individualism and self-determination.

There is now, however, a strong desire for change. In April, US President Joe Biden suggested a $225 billion (£163 billion) paid family and medical leave package, allowing workers to take up to 12 weeks off to care for a newborn or family member. Paid parental leave is a rare topic on which Americans of all stripes can agree in an increasingly polarized country. So, why hasn’t anything been done at the federal level yet – and with Biden’s proposal on its way to Congress, might this be the year?