Working mothers who are juggling worries about job loss and child care responsibilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey released Thursday by USC researchers.
The new analysis of the USC Dornsife’s Understanding Coronavirus in America tracking survey — which surveyed more than 6,800 people — found that women, particularly those without a college degree, have suffered more job losses than men and had greater responsibility for child care during 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,” said Gema Zamarro, the study’s author and an adjunct senior economist for the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.
“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.”
Zamarro noted that the COVID crisis has disproportionately affected women because the pandemic has devastated service-oriented sectors, such as restaurants, hotels and hospitality, that employ more women and that child care needs soared as schools and day care centers closed and stay-at-home orders made it more difficult for family members, including grandparents, to help.
The survey found that non-college-educated women were hit the hardest by job loss, suffering a 15% drop in employment to 36% from March to early April. Men without a college education suffered an 11% drop to 47% in the same time period, according to the survey.
The analysis of the survey determined that 44% of women reported in early April that they were the only household member providing child care, compared with 14% of men.
Researchers said the disparity among those surveyed was notable among working parents, with one in three working mothers reporting in early April that they were the main caregiver compared with one in 10 working fathers,
By early this month, 64% of college-educated mothers reported having reduced their working hours at some point since March, compared with 36% of college-educated fathers and 52% of college-educated women without young children, according to the survey.
Researchers also found that 49% of mothers surveyed reported that they were at least mildly depressed in early April, compared with 40% of women without children and 33% of fathers.
By early June, that number had dropped to 34% of women who were mothers compared with 30% of women without children and 19%of men with and without children, according to the survey.
Researchers have surveyed a panel of 6,824 adults in the United States since mid-March about their perceptions and attitudes about coronavirus and the pandemic’s impact on their lives.
The biweekly tracking survey is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USC.