New Heldrich brief: Wages and Wealth in the Context of COVID-19: The Economic Effects on Households with Children

March 25, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected households across New Jersey, with the unemployment rate rising to 16.6%. As is true in any economic downturn, the effects of these trends are felt more by some groups than others — whether across geographic regions, race, gender, age, or other characteristics and experiences. The Economic Effects on Households with Children, by Meghna Hari and Stephanie Holcomb, is the second brief in a new Heldrich Center research series titled Wages and Wealth in the Context of COVID-19. The brief explores the impact of the pandemic on New Jersey workers and households by different demographics. 

The analysis used data on trends in the hours caregivers spend on child-related activities each day compared with recent data on those who have exited the labor force due to childcare responsibilities. Key findings from this research include:

  • Until 2019, women in New Jersey had engaged increasingly in the labor force, steadily narrowing the male-female labor force participation gap. Even more significantly, women with children under age six matched the participation level of women overall in 2019.
  • Prior to the pandemic, caregiving for parents varied by gender and age of children across all U.S. households. Caregivers with children under age five spent more time on children-related activities than those with children age five or older. Female caregivers spent more time on children-related activities than male caregivers.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, caring for household children was a key factor in not working for New Jersey parents. A higher share of female caregivers who did not work indicated the main reason for this was caring for children in the absence of available daycare/school options as compared to male caregivers who did not work. 

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