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Who is the “She” in the Pandemic “She-Cession”? Variation in COVID-19 Labor Market Outcomes by Gender and Family Status


  • Andrew Taeho Kim

    (University of Kansas)

  • Matt Erickson

    (University of Kansas)

  • Yurong Zhang

    (University of Kansas)

  • ChangHwan Kim

    (University of Kansas)


The sharp decline in employment after the COVID-19 lockdown was not uniformly felt across demographic groups. Utilizing the 2017 to 2020 monthly Current Population Survey and using a difference-in-difference design, we investigate the varying impacts of COVID-19 on at-work status among the prime-working-age population, accounting for typical seasonal fluctuations in employment. The target population is grouped by gender, marital status, parenthood, and level of education. Our results uncover complex variations by gender, marital status, and children’s age. Contrary to popular belief, married women without school-aged children did not experience a relative decline in employment compared to married fathers. A majority of disadvantages in employment that married women experienced are accounted for by controlling for typical seasonal fluctuations. The women whose employment was most distinctively adversely affected by COVID-19 during 2020 were less-educated never-married childless women and never-married mothers. Less-educated men who were not currently married also experienced a disadvantage in employment relative to equally educated married fathers. These findings imply that, during the pandemic recession, marriage offered a form of within-family insurance that we call the “added caregiver effect.” The further implications of these findings are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Taeho Kim & Matt Erickson & Yurong Zhang & ChangHwan Kim, 2022. "Who is the “She” in the Pandemic “She-Cession”? Variation in COVID-19 Labor Market Outcomes by Gender and Family Status," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 41(3), pages 1325-1358, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:poprpr:v:41:y:2022:i:3:d:10.1007_s11113-021-09693-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s11113-021-09693-0

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