The Role of Childcare Challenges in the US Jobs Market Recovery during the COVID-19 Pandemic
18 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 08, 2021
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: Suggested Citation