Relationship Between School Closures and Female Labor Force Participation During the Pandemic   [open html - 0B]

From the Document: "Public K-12 schools are open now for the academic year, and instruction has returned to full-time in person, despite some disruptions due to outbreaks of the highly contagious COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] delta variant (Burbio School Opening Tracker [hyperlink]). The anticipation has been that with schools reopening, women with young children--who have disproportionately dropped out of and remained out of the labor force since the start of the pandemic--will return to the labor force. However, the small bit of evidence provided by the labor market data in September [hyperlink] suggests that this is not the case, as the aggregate labor force participation rate roughly moved sideways and the rate for women ticked down. In this post, we speak to this question by examining the extent to which the switch to all-virtual and hybrid schooling during the pandemic impacted the labor force participation of women with young children. We find that increases in the share of children in virtual or hybrid schooling in a given state are associated with decreases in labor force participation among women with young children in that state. However, the effects are modest. Moreover, in our data, remote schooling also depresses the participation of men with young children, all else equal, so it cannot entirely explain the relatively low participation of women with young children since the start of the pandemic. From a policy perspective these findings indicate that the reopening of schools will not be enough to return mothers' labor force participation back to its pre-pandemic levels. Indeed, mothers, like women more generally, have faced many challenges since the onset of the pandemic. In particular, they were over-represented hyperlink] in the service occupations that were hardest hit when the economy shut down at the start of the pandemic, and as such, conditions related to the progress of the pandemic and the reopening of the economy will also play an important role in increasing their participation. More generally concerns about the progress of the pandemic are likely to be a continuing factor in labor force decisions, especially for parents with young children who cannot be vaccinated."

Brookings Institution
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