We know the pandemic is hitting moms hard, but we’re slowly getting a clearer picture of just how hard.
Mothers of small kids are three times more likely than dads to lose their jobs during the pandemic, according to a Stateline analysis of Current Population Survey data. “Mothers of children 12 years old and younger lost nearly 2.2 million jobs between February and August, a 12% drop,” according to Stateline. “Fathers of small children saw a 4% drop of about 870,000 jobs.”
Single moms fared even worse: they lost about 16% of the jobs they had in February.
The analysis adds on to the ever-growing mountain of data that shows moms are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s impact— particularly working moms. Research from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve found in August that about one in five (19.6%) adults of working age said the reason they weren’t working was because COVID-19 “disrupted their childcare arrangements.” Women ages 25-44 were three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands, the research found.
Though many people are calling moms the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic as a result of their sacrifices, others are arguing that the sacrifices wouldn’t have to be so big, so life altering, if mothers had more societal support.
The majority of mothers who have to stay home with their kids during the pandemic—whether it’s because they don’t have childcare, or because they have to help children with virtual school—don’t have paid leave. The U.S. is the only advanced country in the world without a federal paid leave law, and mothers have felt the impact of this policy failure even more during the pandemic. Nearly 50% of American workers don’t quality for the special COVID paid leave due to the size of their employers, and many of those whose employment would qualify them don’t meet the specific circumstances for the leave. And for those two do can only access it in the short term or only for a portion of their earnings.
Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told CNN that the pandemic’s impact on working moms will have long-term effects on their income and presence in the labor force. “We know that women still shoulder the majority of the responsibility for care work. When these care work demands go up it’s totally reasonable to assume that this falls more to women than men,” Shierholz told CNN. “Women will see income declines, because of cutting back hours and some will just end up dropping out. All of this exacerbates gender inequality.”
In addition to the economic impact, moms are also carrying a heavier psychological load. The University of Southern California found that moms reported being more distressed in early April, compared to women without kids and all men. “By early June, just 19% of men—with and without kids—reported being at least mildly distressed, compared to 30% of women without kids and 34% of women who are moms,” USC News wrote.
Losing their jobs, taking on the bulk of childcare, and struggling with their mental health—it’s all adding up to have a massive impact on moms, not just now, but in the long term.
Angie Schmitt, a mom of two, told the Chicago Tribune she has lost four months’ pay because she has had to take so much time off to support her kindergartner’s online learning. Quitting her job could affect the rest of her life. “Women’s earnings peak at [age] 40. I’m 38. I can’t afford to take a year and a half off,” Schmitt told the Tribune. “I would never be able to retire or get back on my feet.”
This latest analysis from Stateline makes a recurring theme of the pandemic even clearer: Moms across the country are being forced to make huge economic sacrifices when they shouldn’t have to.