Press Release Economic Crisis and Recovery Inequality US

Working-Class Mothers Carried the Weight of Shecession

04/28/2021 12:00am

Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington DC — The pandemic-induced economic recession caused a jaw-dropping decline of women in the labor force, earning it the moniker “shecession.” A new analysis released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows the uneven distribution of the shecession.

Compared to women without children and mothers with bachelor’s degrees, working-class mothers experienced the largest decline in employment and the largest labor force exodus between 2019 and 2020. That’s the main finding of Working-Class Mothers and the COVID-19 Shecession, by Hayley Brown, Simran Kalkat, and Aiden Lee. 

As CEPR prepared to release this analysis, President Biden released The American Families Plan. The plan offers policies to remedy some of the inequities found in the new analysis presented here. CEPR Co-Director Eileen Appelbaum responded:

“Lack of paid leave or paid leave that pays a benefit insufficient to meet family needs is a major reason women leave the workforce.

“The American Families Plan provides workers with paid time off to care for a new baby, a sick or injured family member, or for their own serious health problem. 

“It is designed to make the benefit useful to working-class women. It replaces 80 percent of wages for most working-class women, declining to two-thirds of weekly wages for workers earning higher wages.”

Further findings in the analysis CEPR releases today shows that:

  • Working-class women faced steeper declines in employment irrespective of parental status compared to women with bachelor’s degrees. 
  • While a larger share of working-class mothers quit the labor force in 2020, working-class women without minor children saw the greatest increase in unemployment between 2019 and 2020, as their rate more than tripled. 

Though working-class women have historically been underemployed compared to women with bachelor’s degrees, the pandemic appears to have exacerbated these preexisting class-based employment inequalities, especially for mothers.

“Just as any policy that endeavors to help women or mothers should take into account class differences, policies aimed at helping the working class must consider its racial, ethnic, gender, and family diversity,” writes co-author and CEPR Research Associate Hayley Brown.



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