Research Making the News

Why these two policies are vital to working moms and post-pandemic recovery

| Tanya Tarr | May 9, 2021

But do moms really want greeting cards, flowers or chocolate for Mother’s Day? “Working mothers and caregivers had a difficult time during the pandemic, juggling childcare and full-time work,” said Institute for Women’s Policy Research president and CEO Dr. C. Nicole Mason. “This year, breakfast in bed won’t cut it.” In fact, the two best gifts a working mother could get this year would be better funded child care and more paid time off. […] These findings align with what the IWPR found in a recent poll of women workers. A strong majority (64.1% of women with children) reported being very or somewhat worried about balancing work responsibilities with their own personal and family needs.

Citing: All Work and Little Pay: IWPR Survey Shows Worrying Challenges for Working Mothers by Jeff Hayes and C. Nicole Mason at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (May 4, 2021).

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‘It’s exhausting’: Why women want out of the legal profession

| Hassan Kanu | May 17, 2021

The results of a recent survey about why lawyers want to leave the profession might have been a surprise to researchers, but many lawyers are unfazed. Patrick Krill, an attorney and substance abuse counselor who co-authored the report, said he was astonished by the stark differences in men and women’s experience of being a lawyer. Among them: A quarter of women lawyers said they were thinking about leaving the profession due to mental health issues, stress or burnout, compared with 17% of male respondents. Work-family conflict was the top factor pushing women in the legal industry to consider a different line of work, according to the research. The study included 2,863 working legal professionals in California and Washington, D.C and also found that although stress was the main issue for men who want to leave the law, women experienced stress at greater rates than men: Two-thirds of women reported moderate to severe stress, compared with less than half of men.

Citing: Stress, drink, leave: An examination of gender-specific risk factors for mental health problems and attrition among licensed attorneys by Justin Anker and Patrick R. Krill at PLoS ONE (May 12, 2021).

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The economic recovery is getting messy. Just ask working women. 

| Hannah Denham, Taylor Telford, and Andrew Van Dam | May 12, 2021

Working mothers told The Washington Post that to return to work, they need schools to reopen, the flexibility to work remotely and higher wages to afford early child care. In a pandemic-era analysis of more than 30,000 Americans, university researchers found that women want more work-from-home days than men (49 percent of the time vs. 43 percent), but their employers plan to offer them fewer work-from-home days (19 percent vs. 23 percent). Some pre-kindergartens and schools are still closed or operate on hybrid schedules because of the continued threat of coronavirus infection, but President Biden’s goal to vaccinate children ages 12 and up by the fall could free some parents from some child-care and safety concerns.

Citing: Why Working from Home Will Stick by Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis at the National Bureau of Economic Research (May 2021).

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A new report complicates simplistic narratives about race and the 2020 election

| Andrew Prokop | May 10, 2021

Catalist, a Democratic data firm, has put out a report on “What Happened in 2020” which makes a serious attempt to answer that question. The report is superior to the exit polls because it’s based in their research for what’s known as a “voter file.” Basically, they’ve put together a large database of turnout information about actual voters, assembled from state or local records about who actually showed up. That information has its limits — it’s a secret ballot, so we don’t know who specific people voted for. But this information can be supplemented with precinct-level vote results, census information, and survey findings. Overall, Biden’s share of votes by Latinos decreased by 8 percentage points compared to Hillary Clinton’s, and his share of votes by Black people decreased by 3 percentage points. The report also shows that the non-college white population, while declining as a share of the electorate, remains quite large (they were about 44 percent of all voters in 2020), and Trump won 63 percent of them. And though Biden performed worse among Black voters than Clinton or Obama, he still won about 90 percent of that group.

Citing: What Happened In 2020 by Yair Ghitza and Jonathan Robinson at Catalist (May 2021).

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The power of pre-K

| David Leonhardt | May 10, 2021

The results from a new Boston pre-K study indicate that the Boston students who won the lottery did not do noticeably better on standardized tests in elementary school, middle school or high school. These findings are consistent with the mixed evidence on Head Start. But test scores are mostly a means, not an end. More important than the scores are concrete measures of a student’s well-being. And by those measures, the students who won the lottery fared substantially better than those who lost it. The winners were less likely to be suspended in high school and less likely to be sentenced to juvenile incarceration. Nearly 70 percent of lottery winners graduated from high school, compared with 64 percent of lottery losers, which is a substantial difference for two otherwise similar groups. The winners were also more likely to take the S.A.T., to enroll in college and — though the evidence is incomplete, because of the students’ age — to graduate from college.

Citing: The Long-Term Effects of Universal Preschool in Boston by Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters at the MIT School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII) (May 2021).

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Gender-affirming care leads to better mental health among trans people: study

| Sarah Polus | May 1, 2021

Transgender people who are able to receive gender-affirming surgery reported improved mental health outcomes, according to a new study. he study, published in JAMA Surgery found that overall, gender-affirming surgery was associated with a 42 percent reduction in psychological distress in transgender individuals, a 44 percent reduction in suicidal thoughts and a 35 percent reduction in tobacco smoking. Those who were not yet able to undergo procedures to have their body reflect their gender identity were nearly twice as likely to report negative mental health symptoms and associated behaviors, the study noted. The study included 27,715 respondents, about 81 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 44 years. The vast majority (82 percent) were white. About 38 percent of respondents identified as transgender women, about 32 percent identified as transgender men and about 26 percent identified as nonbinary.

Citing: Association Between Gender-Affirming Surgeries and Mental Health Outcomes by Anthony N. Almazan and Alex S. Keuroghilan in JAMA (April 28, 2021). 

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New Research Reports

Young Women Workers Still Struggling a Decade After the Great Recession: Lessons For The Pandemic Recovery

IWPR | Shengwei Sun | May 24, 2021

The outsized effects of the COVID-19 pandemic recession on young women reflect preexisting inequalities in the labor market. Achieving an equitable economic recovery requires understanding how the U.S. labor market has been transformed in the past decade and beyond—to the detriment of workers. […] Findings from this paper suggest that an inadequate recovery from the Great Recession—as characterized by the growth of low-wage, part-time jobs—restricted opportunities of quality jobs for entry-level workers and paved the way for the “she-cession” induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Heavy concentration in service and retail industries where job quality has been on the decline undermined young women’s economic security and rendered them vulnerable to job losses induced by the pandemic. Young Black women without a college education have been especially disadvantaged.

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Low-Wage, Low-Hours Workers Were Hit Hardest in the COVID-19 Recession: The State of Working America 2020 Employment Report

Economic Policy Institute | Elise Gould and Melat Kassa | May 20, 2021

This report finds that between February 2020 and February 2021, employment losses were largest among workers in the leisure and hospitality, government, and education and health services industries. Even with a partial bounceback last summer after losing more than 8 million jobs last spring, the leisure and hospitality sector still faces the largest shortfall, with nearly 3.5 million fewer jobs in February 2021 than a year prior. Within the hardest-hit sector, leisure and hospitality, Black women, Hispanic women, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (both men and women) saw disproportionate losses. Occupational segregation—the fact that these workers are less likely to be found in higher-paid management professions, even within leisure and hospitality—exposed them to the worst of the job losses.

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Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020

The Federal Reserve System | Kenneth Brevoort, Sara Canilang, Kayla Jones, Jeff Larrimore, Alicia Lloro, Ellen Merry, Anna Tranfaglia, Erin Troland, and Mike Zabek | May 17, 2021

This report describes the responses to the 2020 Survey of Household Economics and Decision-making (SHED). A clear pattern from the survey is that financial challenges in 2020 were uneven, and frequently left those who entered the year with fewer resources further behind. Many laid-off workers had limited financial buffers before the pandemic and exhibited substantial declines in their financial wellbeing in the past year. Gaps in financial well-being by race and ethnicity persisted in 2020, and adults with less than a high school degree fell further behind those with higher levels of education. The survey also highlights concerns about the academic progress of children and young adults as schools turned to online classes and distance learning. Many parents of primary and secondary school children taking online classes did not feel that their children were learning as much as they would through in-person classes. College students who were taking classes online expressed a similar sentiment about the quality and value of online education.

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Women and Child Care in Illinois: A Survey of Working Mothers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Illinois Economic Policy Institute | Alison Dickson, Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Jill Gigstad, and Emily E. LB. Twarog | May 5, 2021

This report assesses the child care crisis in Illinois. This report explores data on children up to 13 years old and examines how the unprecedented decisions to close schools and move to remote learning impacted children and working parents. Then, results from a survey of 1,030 working mothers in Illinois conducted between August 20, 2020 and October 27, 2020 are presented, including data on employment status, worksite location, school and child care facility closures, child care responsibilities, and usage of child care supports. Generally, many mothers may have decided to exit the workforce to care for their children instead of continuing paying for the high child care costs during the pandemic. Additionally, access to paid leave increased the probability that a working mother kept her job by 10 percent and access to flexible scheduling increased the probability by 9 percent.

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The Impact of Contraceptive Access on High School Graduation

Science Advances | Amanda J. Stevenson, Katie R. Genadek, Sara Yeatman, Stefanie Mollborn, and Jane A. Menken | May 5, 2021

Family planning programs are often justified by claims that it does, but contemporary evidence is unexpectedly weak. This research uses a natural experiment afforded by a 2009 Colorado policy change to assess the impact of expanded access to contraception on women’s high school graduation. Linking survey and Census data, the researchers follow a population-representative U.S. sample, including large subsamples of young women living in Colorado in 2010 and in comparison states. Using a difference-in-differences design, they find expansion of access to contraception was associated with a statistically significant 1.66 percentage-point increase in high school graduation. This increase in graduation represents a 14% decrease in the baseline percentage not graduating high school before the policy change. These findings indicate that improving access to contraception increases young women’s human capital formation.

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COVID-19 Has Disrupted College Plans for Students in Households with Children

Child Trends | Renee Ryberg and Jessica Warren | April 27, 2021

This brief presents findings on how students changed their education plans for the Fall 2020 semester. The analyses in this brief focus on students in households with children, especially those who have caregiving responsibilities. We also review relevant policy initiatives that have been implemented in response to the pandemic. Our findings are based on an analysis of a nationally representative sample of households from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey from August through December 2020. About three quarters of households in which at least one person planned to attend higher education in Fall 2020 responded that students needed to change their plans (76% of households with children and 75% of households without). Additionally, households with children more often indicated that students had changed their higher education plans due to caregiving responsibilities, although their reasons for changing plans were otherwise similar to those in households without children.

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Youth Disconnection during the COVID-19 Pandemic

W.E. Upjohn Institute | Mark Borgschulte and Yuci Chen | April 26, 2021

This research looks at “disconnected” youths, 18- to 24-year-olds who aren’t employed or in school or training programs, in the United States. Disconnected youths miss out on the job skills and experience that could help them advance in careers and, over time, lose the contacts that can help them re-enter the job market. The authors found a huge increase in the disconnection rate when the pandemic hit, from around 13 percent in February 2020 to around 25 percent in April of that year. Full-time workers were the most likely in this age group to become disconnected at the start of the pandemic, and the share of youths employed full-time remained low through the summer. The share of full-time workers rebounded strongly in October and returned nearly to pre-pandemic levels by December. Even with these employment gains, however, the youth disconnection rate remained high at the end of 2020 largely because school enrollment fell in the final months of 2020.

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