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The Alarming Stats That Show How The “Mom Recession” Is Setting Women Back

We came a long way, baby.

by Lisa Selin Davis


COVID-19 has caused a “she-cession,” worsening gender, racial, and economic inequality. Hundreds of thousands of moms have fled or been forced from the workforce. Some are “lucky” and don’t need jobs in order to keep food on the table. Some are descending into poverty.

“Women’s employment and labor force participation rates have both fallen to levels not seen since 1986,” reports The Center for American Progress. Since the beginning of the crisis, women have lost 5.8 million jobs altogether.Per The Women's National Law Center
The numbers are much worse for women of color than for white women. For all women, the unemployment rate is 7.7%, vs. 7.4% for men, but that doesn’t include part-time workers — which many mothers are.Per The Women's National Law Center

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Mothers’ work hours dropped four to five times more than fathers’ between March and April. Many mothers reduced their work hours by about 5%, or two hours per week, but fathers’ work hours were pretty much the same. The gender gap in work hours has increased by 20–50%.

Four times more women than men dropped out of the workforce in September. A recent McKinsey & Company/Lean In study found that 25% of women are considering downshifting or leaving their careers altogether. Per the Bureau of Labor & Statistics

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Women of color are more likely to be employed in the service sector, which is disproportionately affected by COVID. 28% of Black women work in service jobs; one-fifth of white women do. A fifth of child care jobs are gone; 20% of child care workers are Latina while 19% are Black.


Women contribute enormously to families’ finances. Some 64% of U.S. mothers are co- or primary breadwinners; 84.3% of Black mothers are co- or primary breadwinners. Some 78% of Black mothers with children work, compared to 66% of white, Asian American, and Latinx moms.

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Child care, which provides jobs and allows women to work, has shifted.
A whopping 76% of mothers with kids under 10 say child care is one of their main pandemic challenges — compared to 54% of dads.Per the U.S. Census Bureau

David Prado/Stocksy

Women’s labor adds $7.6 trillion to the U.S. GDP yearly, more than Japan’s entire $5.2 trillion GDP. But senior-level women are 1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to consider leaving work now. The gender gap will widen in leadership, creating a “broken rung” in ladders toward promotions.

49% [of mothers], compared to 39% of fathers, are not aware of the plans their employers have in place for parents … 4 in 10 parents fear it would be a risk to their employment to take advantage of the offerings; 39% worry they will be terminated if they ask.

Mothers fear being judged for caregiving responsibilities more than dads, while senior-level women feel they have to be "on" all the time. Black women are the most likely to feel they have to hide their true selves. Per McKinsey & Company/Lean In

Nearly half of [fathers] with children under 12 report spending more time on [homeschooling] than their spouse — but just 3 percent of women say their spouse is doing more. 80% of mothers say they spend more time on it.

The New York Times


On average, mothers spend 15 hours more a week than fathers on domestic labor. 70% are mostly or totally responsible for housework during the pandemic, and 66% say they’re responsible for child care, about the same as non-pandemic figures.

Black mothers are twice as likely to do it all.McKinsey & Company/Lean In
Experts say women’s progress will be set back decades as gender pay-gaps widen in the she-cession. For women with kids to regain their footing, and for women of color to catch up to white women, we’re going to need a revolution, with child care as a right, not a privilege.Tom Werner/Getty

Lisa Selin Davis is the author of TOMBOY: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Salon, The Guardian, and many other publications, and is the author of two novels.

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