How School Closures Affect Working Parents

ZipRecruiter survey finds school closures will reduce mothers’ working hours by 9%, fathers’ working hours by 5% 

Schools for 90% of the world’s students rapidly closed by early April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Given rising case counts in some countries, many schools will remain closed until 2021, or adopt hybrid models in which small groups of students alternate between socially distant classroom instruction and online instruction. 

ZipRecruiter conducted a survey of more than 1,700 job seekers to explore how these arrangements will affect parental labor supply during the fall school semester in the United States.

Highlights of the survey

1. 52% of U.S. parents think their child’s school will not reopen for in-person classes in the fall 

Some schools have yet to clarify their plans for the fall, but based on what they had heard by mid-July, roughly half of the survey respondents said they expect their child’s school not to reopen for in-person instruction until 2021. 

There were significant differences by race with 55% of white respondents expecting their children’s schools to reopen but only 42% of blacks and 40% of Hispanics. The differences were partly driven by the types of school attended with private schools expected to be more likely to reopen. 

2. Women expect to reduce their labor hours supplied by 9% and men by 5% if schools do not reopen for in-person classes

The survey asked parents how many days they expect to work during a typical work week and how many hours they expect to work during a typical work day under each of three possible scenarios: (1) schools fully reopening for full-time in-person instruction; (2) schools partially reopening and splitting the week between virtual and in-person instruction; and (3) schools switching to virtual-only instruction. We inferred expected average weekly working hours under each scenario based on the answers provided. The results are shown in the chart below. 

 

This suggests that if schools only partially reopen, women will reduce their working hours by 6% and men by 4%. If schools do not reopen, the gap in expected labor supply reductions increases with women expecting to cut back their working hours by 9% and men by 5%. 

3. Work schedule flexibility is associated with much smaller expected reductions in women’s labor hours supplied 

Among those who are currently employed, women with flexible work schedules expect to reduce their working hours by much less (1%) than those with inflexible work schedules (6%). Schedule flexibility has no significant effect on men’s expected working hours. 


Methodology

ZipRecruiter surveyed 1,726 active job seekers with school-aged children living in the United States between July 14 and July 19, 2020. Active job seekers are defined as logged in, registered job seekers who visited ZipRecruiter’s job marketplace during that time period. 

44% of respondents have one child, 33% have two, 15% have three, and 7% have four or more. In a normal year without the pandemic, 84% would have their children in public schools, 10% in private schools, 8% in charter schools, 5% in homeschool, 1% in parochial school, and 2% in other schooling arrangements. 41% of the respondents were employed full-time, 10% employed part-time, 41% unemployed, and 8% in other employment categories. 

1,032 of the job seekers surveyed were women and 694 were men. The gender imbalance is largely explained by the decision to sample only those job seekers who have children in their households. 46% of the respondents were white, 27% black, 15% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 8% of a different race. Blacks were over-represented and whites under-represented in the survey relative to their share of the U.S. workforce. Totals may not add up to one due to rounding. 

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Julia Pollak

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Julia Pollak is a labor economist at ZipRecruiter. She provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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