How The Pandemic Is Making The Gender Pay Gap Worse

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from NPR

Greg Rosalsky | 18 August 2020

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“Mancession” might sound like the name of an awful jazz fusion band, but it’s a term that the economist Mark Perry helped coin a decade ago. It described how the Great Recession, like the three recessions before it, disproportionately hurt men.

In typical recessions, consumers cut back spending on expensive items like cars, refrigerators, computers and houses, which ravages manufacturing, construction and other industries that disproportionately employ men. Men’s unemployment numbers shoot up. Meanwhile, female-dominated professions in areas such as education, health care and in-person services tended to be more recession-proof. And, in what’s known as “the second-earner effect,” many women actually enter the labor force or increase their work hours during recessions as a way to help their families while the primary male breadwinner struggles. This helps tamp down the female unemployment rate.

It’s playing out differently this time, according to a new study by economists Titan Alon, Matthias Doepke, Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, and Michèle Tertilt. They find that this recession is hitting women harder. Between February and April 2020, male unemployment increased 9.9%; female unemployment increased 12.8%. The pandemic has ravaged in-person service jobs — at restaurants, hotels, pilates studios, retail outlets and so on — which are disproportionately done by women. Men are more likely to be able to work remotely, and male-dominated construction and manufacturing, while down, have also proven to be relatively pandemic-proof. Since April, the gender unemployment gap has narrowed, but the women’s unemployment rate remains almost a percentage point higher than men’s.

The unemployment rate is only part of the story. “This recession is not just a labor market shock, but it’s also a huge shock to the requirements for time spent at home,” says Olmstead-Rumsey, an economist at Northwestern University. Women are getting hit hard by the closure of schools and day care facilities, which have forced kids to stay home. Even in families where both Mom and Dad work full time, the average mom does almost 60% of the child care in normal times, about three more hours per week than dad, Olmstead-Rumsey says. Those working moms spend six more hours per week on child care than dad if the couple has a child younger than 5. The pandemic has increased this burden by making it harder for families to outsource caregiving to schools and day care facilities.