Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden

In Economy On
- Updated

For millions of working women, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a rare and ruinous one-two-three punch.

First, the parts of the economy that were smacked hardest and earliest by job losses were ones where women dominate — restaurants, retail businesses and health care.

Then a second wave began taking out local and state government jobs, another area where women outnumber men.

The third blow has, for many, been the knockout: the closing of child care centers and the shift to remote schooling. That has saddled working mothers, much more than fathers, with overwhelming household responsibilities.

“We’ve never seen this before,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan and the mother of a second grader and a sixth grader. Recessions usually start by gutting the manufacturing and construction industries, where men hold most of the jobs, she said.

The impact on the economic and social landscape is both immediate and enduring.

The triple punch is not just pushing women out of jobs they held, but also preventing many from seeking new ones. For an individual, it could limit prospects and earnings over a lifetime. Across a nation, it could stunt growth, robbing the economy of educated, experienced and dedicated workers.

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