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This Time It’s Different: The Role of Women’s Employment in a Pandemic Recession


  • Tertilt, Michèle
  • Doepke, Matthias
  • Olmstead-Rumsey, Jane


In recent US recessions, employment losses have been much larger for men than for women. Yet, in the current recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the opposite is true: unemployment is higher among women. In this paper, we analyze the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. We argue that women have experienced sharp employment losses both because their employment is concentrated in heavily affected sectors such as restaurants, and due to increased childcare needs caused by school and daycare closures, preventing many women from working. We analyze the repercussions of this trend using a quantitative macroeconomic model featuring heterogeneity in gender, marital status, childcare needs, and human capital. Our quantitative analysis suggests that a pandemic recession will i) feature a strong transmission from employment to aggregate demand due to diminished within-household insurance; ii) result in a widening of the gender wage gap throughout the recovery; and iii) contribute to a weakening of the gender norms that currently produce a lopsided distribution of the division of labor in home work and childcare.

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  • Tertilt, Michèle & Doepke, Matthias & Olmstead-Rumsey, Jane, 2020. "This Time It’s Different: The Role of Women’s Employment in a Pandemic Recession," CEPR Discussion Papers 15149, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15149

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    2. Jose Maria Barrero & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2020. "Why Working From Home Will Stick," Working Papers 2020-174, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    3. Youngsoo Jang & Minchul Yum, 2020. "Aggregate and Intergenerational Implications of School Closures: A Quantitative Assessment," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2020_234v2, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    4. Kouki, Amairisa, 2023. "Beyond the “Comforts” of work from home: Child health and the female wage penalty," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 157(C).
    5. Mr. Nicola Pierri & Mr. Yannick Timmer, 2020. "IT Shields: Technology Adoption and Economic Resilience during the COVID-19 Pandemic," IMF Working Papers 2020/208, International Monetary Fund.
    6. Cecilia Obeng & Mary Slaughter & Emmanuel Obeng-Gyasi, 2022. "Childcare Issues and the Pandemic: Working Women’s Experiences in the Face of COVID-19," Societies, MDPI, vol. 12(4), pages 1-11, July.
    7. Kugler, Maurice & Viollaz, Mariana & Duque, Daniel & Gaddis, Isis & Newhouse, David & Palacios-Lopez, Amparo & Weber, Michael, 2023. "How did the COVID-19 crisis affect different types of workers in the developing world?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 170(C).
    8. Isphording, Ingo E. & Lipfert, Marc & Pestel, Nico, 2021. "Does re-opening schools contribute to the spread of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence from staggered summer breaks in Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 198(C).
    9. Agostinelli, Francesco & Doepke, Matthias & Sorrenti, Giuseppe & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2022. "When the great equalizer shuts down: Schools, peers, and parents in pandemic times," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 206(C).
    10. Faberman, R. Jason & Mueller, Andreas I. & Şahin, Ayşegül, 2022. "Has the Willingness to Work Fallen during the Covid Pandemic?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    11. Scott, Douglas & Freund, Richard & Favara, Marta & Porter, Catherine & Sanchez, Alan, 2021. "Unpacking the Post-lockdown Employment Recovery of Young Women in the Global South," IZA Discussion Papers 14829, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Brindusa Mihaela RADU & Mariana BALAN, 2022. "The Covid-19 Pandemic: Labour Market Implications For Youth Women," Internal Auditing and Risk Management, Athenaeum University of Bucharest, vol. 66(2), pages 9-19, September.
    13. Sugawara, Shinya & Nakamura, Jiro, 2021. "Long-term care at home and female work during the COVID-19 pandemic," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 125(7), pages 859-868.
    14. Atefeh Aghaei & Ran Zhang & Slone Taylor & Cheuk-Chi Tam & Chih-Hsiang Yang & Xiaoming Li & Shan Qiao, 2022. "Social Life of Females with Persistent COVID-19 Symptoms: A Qualitative Study," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(15), pages 1-15, July.
    15. Nicole Hiekel & Mine Kühn, 2023. "Gender inequality in childcare and parental mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany. Do gender role attitudes matter?," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2023-007, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    16. repec:hal:journl:hal-03627187 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Bonacini, Luca & Gallo, Giovanni & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2021. "Will it be a shecession? The unintended influence of working from home on the gender wage gap related to the COVID-19 pandemic," GLO Discussion Paper Series 771, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    18. Taiyo Fukai & Hidehiko Ichimura & Keisuke Kawata, 2021. "Describing the impacts of COVID-19 on the labor market in Japan until June 2020," The Japanese Economic Review, Springer, vol. 72(3), pages 439-470, July.
    19. Singh, Vikkram & Shirazi, Homayoun & Turetken, Jessica, 2022. "COVID-19 and gender disparities: Labour market outcomes," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 206-217.
    20. Ebenezer Kwabena Frimpong & Peter Yamoah & Ebenezer Wiafe & Patrick Hulisani Demana & Moliehi Matlala, 2022. "Market Women’s Perspectives on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): The Case of Ghana and South Africa," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(15), pages 1-15, August.
    21. Bluedorn, John & Caselli, Francesca & Hansen, Niels-Jakob & Shibata, Ippei & Tavares, Marina M., 2023. "Gender and employment in the COVID-19 recession: Cross-Country evidence on “She-Cessions”," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).

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    More about this item


    Covid-19; Pandemics; Recessions; Business cycle; Gender equality; School closures; Childcare; Gender wage gap;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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