Mothers 3 times more likely than fathers to have lost jobs during pandemic

Mothers of children under age 12 lost jobs at three times the rate of fathers between February and August in a trend that threatens to reverse decades of progress in gender equity and overall household income gains for the middle class, according to analysis from Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mothers of young children lost nearly 2.2 million jobs between February and August, a 12 percent drop. Fathers of young children lost about 870,000 jobs, a 4 percent drop. Job loss during this time was especially pronounced for single mothers, who lost 16 percent of jobs they held in February compared with a 6 percent drop for single fathers.

It's likely that job losses worsened in September due to the demands of online learning. Nearly two-thirds of parents nationwide have children in online learning, according to a Census Bureau survey. The transition to online schooling has required a significant amount of adult supervision, and women tend to bear the brunt of child care duties in the home. Mothers of young children have lost four to five times more work hours than fathers during the pandemic, according to a July study by Washington University in St. Louis. 

Experts say the fact that mothers have faced three-times the job loss in a six-month period shows a need for revised policies enacted by employers, states and the federal government, such as flexible school and work schedules, more paid leave for family care, and greater protection against job discrimination.

The Great Recession from 2007-2009 forced older men into early retirement, and this recession could become a long-term setback for women with children, Diane Lim, PhD, economist and adjunct professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told Stateline.

"I can imagine a lot of working moms not being able to effectively keep working while their school-aged kids are stuck home with them, saying 'Well, I guess I'm a stay-at-home mom now,'" Dr. Lim said.  

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