Has COVID Been Good For Women?

During the covid epidemic there was a serious labor shortage, in part because of massively increased unemployment compensation that made staying home a desirable option for many. But that boondoggle ended, most of the world reopened, and yet, the labor shortage continued. Why?

For one thing, quite a few women, having been at home with their families through the height of the epidemic, decided not to return to the labor force when the economy reopened. There are several possible reasons for such decisions: some found that they liked being at home with their children; some committed their time to home schooling; some realized that their families could get by well on one income, particularly since their entire income was taxed at their husbands’ marginal rate.

I had a personal experience with this. An excellent member of my staff, who had two young children but had always been career-oriented, had to stay home with her children for a few months due to a government shutdown. Not having done that before, she found that she liked it. We reopened, but one day she came into my office and told me that she loved her job, but she loved her children more, and resigned. I hated to lose her, but could only applaud her decision.

But many on the Left are not so understanding. Liberal dogma holds that the only proper place for a woman is in the paid workforce, so anything that causes women to stay at home is perforce bad. This piece in Fortune is a good example. The title says it all: “Women’s workforce participation has plummeted. Here’s how to reverse the trend.”

[T]he January jobs report found that 275,000 women left the workforce last month, leaving the women’s workplace participation rate at 57%—a rate that pre-pandemic had not been seen since 1988. An entire generation of progress has been erased in two years.

That is the liberal presumption: more women in the paid workforce–trust me, the other women are working too–represents “progress.”

A paper by sociologist Jessica Calarco found that different-sex, dual-earner couples…

“Different-sex couples”: the world in which we are living.

…grappled with the increased parenting duties of the pandemic in mostly unequal ways, even when that was a reversion from formerly more egalitarian relationships and even when those arrangements negatively affected mothers.

“Negatively affected” means those mothers were not in the paid workforce. It is reasonable to assume, however, that those people did not believe they were “negatively affected.”

These traditionally gendered arrangements were justified as a matter of “practicality” if the mother could more easily work remotely but also by the concept that mothers are “more natural” at caregiving in situations where it was less practical.

Shockingly, most people believe that is true.

In other words, “it just made sense” for Mom to do more, and if it actually didn’t make sense, then, well, she’s just better at it.

We conservatives would say that what makes sense for a given family is best determined by the members of that family. If the best course is for a wife to choose to devote her time to caring for her children (and, not incidentally, her husband), it’s fine with us.

Liberals, however, are generally not so tolerant.

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