Discussion Paper

Where Are They Now? Workers with Young Children during COVID-19


Abstract: Employment levels for prime-age workers have been greatly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline has fallen disproportionately on females, especially compared to past recessions, and the presence of young children is a driving factor in this differential response. This article identifies the impact of gender, young children, and the presence of a spouse on the attachment to employment for individuals who were employed immediately prior to the pandemic. Compared to the Great Recession and the most recent expansionary period in 2019, women with young children have a relatively lower level of attachment to employment in the pandemic than men and females without children. In addition, women with very young children, who accounted for 10 percent of the prepandemic workforce, accounted for almost a quarter of the unanticipated, or COVID-related, decline in employment. Taken together, these results suggest that children—and perhaps the ability to access quality childcare—are playing a different, and more significant, role than in past recessions and recoveries.

Keywords: employment; COVID-19; childcare;

JEL Classification: J13; J16; J22;

https://doi.org/10.29338/ph2021-10

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Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Part of Series: Policy Hub

Publication Date: 2021-09-01