Workforce absences during the pandemic, by race and gender

During the pandemic, U.S. workers reported a 50 percent increase in work absences due to personal illness, child care needs or family obligations compared to previous years, according to a new report released Aug. 1 by the Urban Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For the report, researchers used the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey to examine self-reported absences from March 2020 through February 2022 and compared that to the previous two years, March 2018 through February 2020. They also compared data from both periods to estimate the additional amount of missed wages among workers who were absent without pay during the pandemic.

Four other findings:

1. Low-income workers, as well as those who were self-employed, Black, Hispanic, women or living in households with children, experienced the largest increases in unpaid absences when comparing the two studied periods.

2. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Hispanic workers and 57 percent of Black workers did not receive pay while absent from work because of personal illness, a childcare need or another obligation. 

3. From March 2020 through February 2022, women were more than 40 percent more likely to be absent from work without pay compared to their male counterparts.

4. From March 2020 through February 2022, workers in households with less than $25,000 in annual income were more than three times as likely than workers with annual incomes over $100,000 to be absent without pay.

To download the full report, click here.

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