1 million married women lost their jobs last month due to back-to-school season — and economists fear it could lead to 'a lost generation of mothers'

1 million married women lost their jobs last month due to back-to-school season — and economists fear it could lead to 'a lost generation of mothers'
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  • Married women lost 1 million jobs in September alone, while single men and women gained jobs.
  • The dip in married women in the workforce, economists say, could be due to the difficulty of childcare amid the back-to-school season.
  • Women shoulder most of the burden at home, according to studies from Boston Consulting Group and Northwestern University.
  • At some point, women then have to choose between performing well at work and at home, explaining the dip in employment for those who are married.

Back-to-school season is tough enough on working parents. This year, it's devastating — and for one group in particular.

According to the newest count from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, married women lost almost 1 million jobs in September. Meanwhile, married men lost nearly 800,000 jobs, and both single men and women steadily earned jobs back.

"This month the number of women leaving the labor market was larger than total job gains," economist Michael Madowitz wrote for the Center for American Progress. "Women's employment has taken an unprecedented hit in this recession, with economists fearing a lost generation of mothers."

The statement echoes what Betsey Stevenson, an economics professor at the University of Michigan, previously told the New York Times: "We could have an entire generation of women who are hurt."

The chart above shows a dip in employment for married people this past month that directly coincides with the start of the school season. The losses "wiped out" all of the job gains for married people in July and August, Madowitz tweeted on October 6.


"This really looks like a back-to-school story," he noted. As schools across the country struggle with remote learning, parents are adding "teacher" to the list of jobs they juggle.

Women bear the brunt of work at home, potentially forcing them to choose family over career

The shift into the new school year is exposing and exacerbating inequities that have long existed. Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, told the Times that the inequities women face are now "on steroids."

Consider a Boston Consulting Group study that found parents are spending an addition 27 hours per week on household chores, childcare, and education. Women, for the most part, shoulder that burden by spending 15 more hours on domestic labor each week than men.

Meanwhile, a separate Northwestern University study found that even in two-parent households, mothers provide 70% of childcare during working hours.

More than half of American women are mothers, and more than half of mothers are part of the American workforce. Those women, economists say, are at high risk of dropping out of the labor force to raise children — and the recent dip could confirm that. The same BCG study found that 50% of respondents felt their performance at work has decreased due to additional responsibilities.


All of that data reflects an impossible choice American parents — mothers, especially — are forced to make. And if the latest data is any indication, that dilemma will only entrench itself further as a feature of American life.