Study Finds That the Pandemic Has Widened the Gender Gap in Work Hours

A new study led by Caitlyn Collins, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated — not improved — the gender gap in work hours, which could have enduring consequences for working mothers.

Between March and April, mothers’ work hours fell four to five times as much as fathers’ work hours, according to the study. While mothers scaled back their work hours by about 5 percent, or two hours per week, fathers’ work hours remained largely stable. The impact was greatest among mothers of primary school-aged children or younger children for whom caregiving and homeschooling demands are most intense.

“Even among households in which both parents are able to work from home and are directly exposed to childcare and housework demands, mothers are scaling back to meet these responsibilities to a greater extent than fathers. Ultimately, our analyses reveal that gender inequality in parents’ work hours has worsened during the pandemic,” Dr. Collins said.

The authors of the study write that “scaling back work is part of a downward spiral that often leads to labor force exits — especially in cases where employers are inflexible with schedules or penalize employees unable to meet work expectations in the face of growing care demands. We are also concerned that many employers will be looking for ways to save money and it may be at the expense of mothers who have already weakened their labor market attachment.”

Dr. Collins is the author of Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving (Princeton University Press, 2019). She joined the faculty at Washington University in 2016. Dr. Collins is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she majored in sociology. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the Univerity of Texas at Austin.

The full study, “COVID-19 and the Gender Gap in Work Hours,” was published on the website of the journal Gender, Work, and Organization. it may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply