Working moms disproportionately affected by coronavirus pandemic, USC study finds

Nation/world
A woman holds a child while people shop at the Los Angeles Flower District ahead of Mother's Day on May 8, 2020. (AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman holds a child while people shop at the Los Angeles Flower District ahead of Mother’s Day on May 8, 2020. (AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty Images)

When the coronavirus pandemic forced closures across the United States, leaving millions jobless and children out of schools, working mothers were among the hardest hit, according to a USC study published Thursday.

Employment among women dropped 13 percent, from 59% to 46%, between March and early April, compared to falling 10 percent among men, according to the survey of nearly 7,000 people.

Women without college degrees suffered the biggest job losses: Of those surveyed, only 36% were still employed in early April, compared to 51% the month before.

Restaurant, hotel and hospitality service-oriented sectors that employ more women saw the most devastating losses as the closures continued, leading to more women out of work just as schools and daycare centers closed and stay-at-home orders made it harder for grandparents to help out with child care.

This meant women suffered more job losses than men and bore a significantly greater responsibility for child care, Center for Economic and Social Research economist, Gema Zamarro, explained in a news release.

The study found that 1 in 3 working mothers reported that they were the main caregiver, compared to 1 in 10 working fathers as of early April, after schools closed to curb the spread of the virus. Overall, 44% of women reported being the only household member caring for children, compared to 14% of men.

The majority of working women with young children surveyed reported reducing their hours at work amid the pandemic.

“Considering women already shouldered a greater burden for child care prior to the pandemic, it’s unsurprising the demands are now even greater,” Zamarro said. “While men are more likely to die from infection by COVID-19, overall the pandemic has had a disproportionately detrimental impact on the mental health of women, particularly those with kids.”

By June, 19% of men — with and without kids — reported being at least mildly distressed, compared to 34% of mothers and 30% of women without kids.

In California, more than 5.5 million people filed for unemployment in the last 14 weeks, and in May, the state’s unemployment rate climbed to 16.3% — the highest unemployment for the nation’s most populous state since the Great Depression.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in April signed an executive order to expand child care access for children of essential workers, allocating $100 million to pay for up to 20,000 child care slots at centers statewide and to keep them safe as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The state launched an online portal that helps families find child care centers in neighborhoods throughout California. Families can visit mychildcare.ca.gov and enter their address or ZIP code in the search box to find a listing of all child care centers and homes open nearby.

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