The Role of Childcare Challenges in the US Jobs Market Recovery during the COVID-19 Pandemic

18 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jason Furman

Jason Furman

Harvard Kennedy School; Peterson Institute for International Economics

Melissa S. Kearney

University of Maryland - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Wilson Powell

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 08, 2021

Abstract

This working paper examines how much of the overall decline in employment between the beginning of 2020 and 2021 can be explained by excess job loss among parents of young children, and mothers specifically. Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the authors confirm that, in general, mothers with young children have experienced a larger decline in employment, as compared (unconditionally) with other adults, including fathers. This excess job loss is driven by mothers without a four-year college degree. The main point of the paper is to build off this observation and examine how much of the aggregate employment deficit in early 2021 can be explained by parent-specific issues, such as childcare struggles. To examine this question, the authors construct counterfactual employment rates and labor force participation rates that assign to mothers of young children the percent change in employment and labor force participation rates experienced by comparable women without young children. The paper considers multiple definition, sample, and counterfactual specification alternatives. The analysis yields robust evidence that differential job loss among mothers of young children accounts for a negligible share of the ongoing aggregate employment deficit. The result is even stronger (and flips signs) if all parents are considered, since fathers with young children experienced less job loss than other men. The practical implication of these findings is that nearly all of the aggregate ongoing employment deficit is explained by factors that affect workers more broadly, as opposed to challenges specific to working parents.

Keywords: Labor markets, Employment, COVID-19, Parents, United States

JEL Classification: J01, J18, J21

Suggested Citation

Furman, Jason and Kearney, Melissa S. and Powell, Wilson, The Role of Childcare Challenges in the US Jobs Market Recovery during the COVID-19 Pandemic (June 08, 2021). Peterson Institute for International Economics Working Paper No. 21-8, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3874214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3874214

Jason Furman (Contact Author)

Harvard Kennedy School ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
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Melissa S. Kearney

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Wilson Powell

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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