‘You’re stuck’: America wants to reopen its economy. It won’t happen without schools or child care

In The News

By BRACEY HARRIS

For all the talk of getting America back to work, the reality remains the same: Many working parents won’t come back if they don’t have somewhere safe for their kids.

Nearly 200,000 Mississippians with children between the ages of 6 to 12 are working parents. School closures and a hollowed-out child care landscape have backed many of these parents into a corner about whether they can return to work at all, according to C. Nicole Mason, CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“The big open secret is this will disproportionately impact low-income mothers and families,” Mason said. “These are the people who cannot stay home, but have to stay at home.”

“The big open secret is this will disproportionately impact low-income mothers and families. These are the people who cannot stay home but have to stay at home.”

C. Nicole Mason, CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

report released from the institute this month, “Holding up Half the Sky,” found that Mississippi’s share of “breadwinner mothers” was second only to the District of Columbia. When it comes to the percentage of women living in poverty, Mississippi also ranks only behind the Beltway. And women are heavily concentrated in the state’s service workforce. Eighty percent of the state’s cashiers are women, Mississippi Today reported, for example. Many of those working at grocery stores were likely never sent home. But women in these jobs don’t have much leverage to negotiate taking off when schools close and other child care options are shuttered.

“For workers who work in the service industry flexibility is important during this time,” Mason said. But the reality is “there is no flexibility,” she said. “You either show up or you don’t. There’s no job security.”

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