A few weeks before the pandemic, Melissa Colbourne took a leave of absence to work as a case manager for a childcare agency. She originally planned to take a two-month vacation, but when the school closed, she extended the vacation all summer. She is a single mother, and her 9-year-old daughter Alyssa is at home.
Last fall, she returned to work. Since the school in Los Angeles was still closed, she began sending Alyssa to a subsidized daycare, where she conducted distance school education.
Ms. Colbourne, 37, said: “I have bus tickets, rent, groceries, bills, so I can’t just quit my job. I think this is the case for many African-American women. Many of us don̵
There are currently no detailed data on parental experiences during the pandemic, so researchers have tried various methods to determine its impact. The census analysis examined data on parents living with school-age children. It does not include parents of infants and young children. At this age, mothers are usually less likely to work. It also excludes parents who do not live with their children, because the data is not available, and guardian parents are more likely to participate in daily childcare.
The analysis focuses on parents who are actively working, but does not include those who are working but who are on vacation. More mothers are using paid or unpaid leave to cope with the childcare crisis. (This is a different approach from the more commonly reported employment numbers, which shut out people who don’t look for jobs, such as those mothers who stopped working until the school reopened, and put most people on leave. Treated as an employee.)
Although mothers face unusual challenges, census analysis also shows how they are affected by the same forces as other workers. The survey found that most of the mothers who left the labor force came from the service industry, which is where most of the jobs are unemployed.
Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard University, said that in addition to parenthood or gender, education is most decisive for who loses a job during a pandemic. People with a college degree are more likely to work at home, to work for an employer who is still in business, or to be able to afford additional childcare services.