Daycare closures forced 600,000 moms to leave their jobs during the pandemic

Without reliable childcare, hundreds of thousands of women were forced to choose between their careers and their children.

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We are still learning just how much the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. Nearly four million people have died worldwide, including over 604,000 in the United States alone.

We know that millions of Americans lost their jobs as businesses shuttered, sometimes permanently, and schooling largely moved online for most students.

A new study examined employment rates in states where daycares closed during the spring of 2020. Researchers found that women with children under the age of six were more likely to lose their jobs during those closures.

Without reliable childcare, roughly 611,000 women were forced to leave their jobs.


The findings were published in JAMA Health Forum.

Employment among men and women dropped sharply nationwide in April 2020—but women in states with child care closures saw the greatest job losses. Compared to men, women were 2.6% less likely to be employed while daycares were closed.

The researchers estimate that among 23.5 million working mothers last year, 611,000 lost their jobs during that time. Black and Hispanic moms were more likely to be forced out of the workforce, too.

Over the first ten months of the pandemic, more than 2.3 million American women left their jobs, according to the National Women's Law Center. Just under 1.8 million men lost their jobs during the same time.

That mothers chose to leave their careers to care for their children during a turbulent time isn't altogether surprising. But we should be outraged that so many women were forced to make that choice.

We need more from our employers and from society.

We need paid family leave. We need reliable, affordable childcare. We need pay equity.

We need mothers to be taken seriously—not just as child carers, but as professionals and people.

Because when mothers thrive, we all do.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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