Mothers bear the brunt of paid and unpaid childcare labor: Moms are the majority of childcare workers—frontline jobs which are among the lowest paid occupations for women— and take on the majority of childrearing responsibilities in their own homes. Even before the Pandemic, the motherhood penalty meant mothers earned much less than fathers even working full-time year-round. In 2019, Latina mothers made 46 cents, Indigenous mothers 50 cents, Black mothers 52 cents, White Non-Hispanic mothers 71 cents, and Asian American and Pacific Islander mothers 90 cents on average for every dollar made by White Non-Hispanic fathers.
Now, the pandemic and its economic fallout has deepened the cracks in a system that was never built to support mothers, their caregiving responsibilities, or their chance at an equitable foothold in the job market. Slow employment recovery in the childcare sector has narrowed the choices for mothers seeking a return to full-time employment.
IWPR’s Working Moms and the Economy Survey finds, in the wake of the pandemic, mothers of kids younger than 18 report greater rates of difficulty than other women: paying bills (60.6 percent), balancing work and family demands (64.1 percent), and accessing health insurance (55.4 percent).
These burdens are heavier for Black, Indigenous, and Latina mothers, who have been much less likely to be able to transition to remote work than White and Asian mothers. Black and Indigenous mothers are also likely to be co-breadwinners or primary wage earners: 79 percent of Black mothers and 64 percent of Indigenous mothers are single mothers or contribute at least 40 percent of their household income.
Mothers worry they may never see pay equity and that motherhood can be considered a barrier to advancement. Over half (53 percent) of mothers of kids younger than 18 don’t think they will achieve equal pay in their lifetimes. Close to four in ten mothers (38.8 percent) report having been passed over for a promotion, and 39.1 percent report being asked if they had children when they were interviewed for their last job, despite the fact that asking these questions can be considered evidence of intent to discriminate.
Mothers are looking to policies for solutions. The vast majority of women and mothers support pay equity policies like adding salary ranges to job postings (83 percent of mothers), mandating companies report pay data to the government (78 percent of mothers), and banning companies from asking about salary history (64 percent of mothers). Women and mothers also support paid leave, including 70 percent of women with children and 69 percent of women without children.
This Mother’s Day, let’s give mothers more than flowers and brunches. It’s time to address child care, paid family and sick leave, job quality, and job loss in sectors where women are overrepresented.