Not Working: More American Mothers Dropped Out Of School In Distant States | News on the coronavirus pandemic
Women have dropped out of the U.S. workforce at a faster rate in states where most students learn from home, risking reversing decades of gender promotion.
Before the pandemic, the labor force participation rate of mothers was about 18 percentage points lower than that of fathers. From 2019 to 2020, the gap widened by 5 percentage points in states primarily offering distance education, and narrowed less where mainstream schooling continued, according to an article expected to be published soon in Gender and Society. , a peer-reviewed academic journal.
The findings highlight one of the economic complexities – and the potential long-term effects – of the school reopening debate that has divided parents, teachers and elected officials. As schools increasingly revert to classroom learning as cases of Covid-19 decline, more than half of students are still estranged full-time or part-time. The problem affects mothers much more than fathers: the longer working women stay at home with their young children, the greater the risks to their careers and to economic recovery in general.
“The fear in the pandemic, in the context of parenthood, was that the added burden of caregiving due to school and daycare closures was going to fall mainly on the shoulders of women,” said Caitlyn Collins, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Saint-Louis, and author of the article. “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the research has found.”
Collins, along with his coauthors, constructed a data set on the school openness status of thousands of elementary schools across the country and linked this data to federal labor statistics from the Current Population Survey of the US Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The researchers calculated labor rates for mothers and fathers with at least one primary-age child. They compared the period from September to November in 2019 to 2020, taking into account race, age, marital status and education in 26 states, and focused on three states: Maryland , where the school was mostly remote; New York, which was a mixture of distance and school; and Texas, where more than half of the districts offered elementary school students the opportunity to attend full-time in-person classes.
The gap was greatest in Maryland. While the probability of working for fathers fell by 5 percentage points in 2020, the drop for mothers was 16 points.
More research is needed to understand the full impact of school closings, especially the effects of hybrid setups, where the trends were less clear. For example, New York, where half of the districts opted for a hybrid program, saw a lesser impact on expected maternal labor participation than Texas, which was mostly in person – 7 points versus 10. Collins and colleagues intend to launch another round of analysis with a larger sample of states.
Nationally, the gender gap widened the most – and was statistically significant – in similar places in Maryland, where education was widely distant. Virginia, for example, recorded an 11-point drop for mothers compared to a 2-point drop for fathers. States with more traditional or hybrid offerings have seen insignificant changes on the gap. South Carolina, a hybrid state, saw rates for fathers unchanged and rates for mothers drop just 3 percentage points.
“In states where schools primarily offer distance education, this has a really negative effect on the mother’s participation in the workforce,” Collins said.
Normally, around 70% of mothers living with their children generally work. After the outbreak of the pandemic, around 45% were not actively working. That number has since fallen to 35%. About 10 million mothers living with their school-aged children were unemployed in January, about 1.4 million more than the same time last year, according to the US Census Bureau.
The mosaic of state and local policies has linked mothers’ career prospects to their skills – and to the whims of policymakers. About 47% of students were attending school full-time in person as of March 6, according to Burbio, a website that tracks school reopens.
‘Hard to go back’
Kelly Mann of Raleigh, NC, worked full-time as an implementation manager for McGraw Hill helping teachers create online versions of their curricula. Business rose when the pandemic prompted many schools to teach virtually, but Mann found that his children needed the extra support to pursue their own distance education.
Mann announced that she would be quitting her job over the summer. Without a second income, her family made difficult budget choices, such as giving up after-school programs.
“There are a lot of moms like me who are at an age where it’s going to be hard to turn back the clock,” said Mann, 48. “Career women who have had fulfilling lives on top of being mothers and wives are going to lose this. “
In Vancouver, Washington, Megan Gabriel, 36, worked full time as a nurse until the pandemic closed her clinic. Her two children are still in virtual school, preparing to switch to hybrid.
His oldest, an eighth grader, developed mental health issues from the isolation that demanded Gabriel’s time and care, preventing him from returning to work. Opening schools earlier would have avoided that, she said: “I can’t imagine what it will be like to find a job when the schools finally reopen.”