Our economic system is sexist. Biden’s child-care plans aim to change that.

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Washington Post

President Biden’s two signature policy initiatives — the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which he has signed into law, and the proposed $2 trillion American Jobs Plan — are noteworthy for their scope and scale. But they are landmark bills not just for the money they devote to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and highway and broadband improvements, but because they also directly acknowledge structural sexism in American society — and provide substantial resources to remedy the problem.

The coronavirus pandemic, after all, exposed and amplified many gender disparities in the U.S. economy. When the pandemic interrupted in-person child care and schooling, it was women who disproportionately reduced their work hours, left their jobs and devoted more time to additional child care and household duties. What’s more, Black and Brown women, overrepresented in essential work — in supermarkets, for instance — faced this child-care crunch while enduring the threat that comes from being on the front lines of a public health emergency.

Scholars and activists have long recognized the role that child care — and also the care of the elderly and people with disabilities — plays in freeing women to join the workforce on a footing equal to men. Proposals in these two bills step away from the inadequate patchwork policies through which politicians have occasionally addressed these issues and embrace truly systemic solutions.

When child care experiences a shock, as during the pandemic, we know that women suffer disproportionately. Despite an uptick in employment relative to men last month, women left the workforce at much higher rates over the past year. Between February 2020 and February 2021, nearly 56 percent of the net jobs lost in the pandemic were women’s, and 500,000 more women than men dropped out of the labor market completely. Given that nearly half of U.S. households — and more than 60 percent of Black households — are headed by women, that puts the livelihoods of millions of families at risk. And when women, particularly mothers, leave the labor market, even if only temporarily, the adverse effects linger, harming their ability to reenter the workforce, recoup lost wages and retire with economic security.