Study: Moms Reduced Work Hours More Than Dads To Care For Kids During Pandemic

Published: Monday, July 27, 2020 - 9:12am

New research appears to show the coronavirus pandemic has caused more working mothers to reduce their work hours to care for their children compared to working fathers. 

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis looked at the changes in work hours from February through April. They found that mothers with young children reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers. 

Cassandra Cotton is postdoctoral scholar in the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. She wasn’t involved with this study, but says the results are not surprising.

"So we’ve known that women have always experienced what we call a motherhood penalty," said Cotton.

But there was this idea, or hope, that the pandemic would be a great equalizer. That didn’t happen.

"These changes in terms of women's labor force activity are going to have some pretty significant impacts on women's employment trajectories," she said.

The researchers found this was also true even in homes that aim for equal parenting.

"A lot of the physical child care has fallen to women," said Cotton. "And a lot of the emotional labor of having kids has fallen to women as well. And part of that is because kids tend to go to mom's first. And some of that might be socialization."

The study noted that child care demands are likely to linger into the upcoming school year, and employers should try to offer flexibility to women so they can remain in the labor force.

Otherwise, Cotton says we can expect to see more working mothers lose their jobs or be passed over for promotions. And all of that could lead to lower lifetime earnings. 

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