April 15, 2024

The stories you’ve been hearing about how women in the workforce have been impacted far more than men? They’re all true. The data supports it.

A report released Tuesday by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, supported by the New Jersey State Policy Lab, found that many women are changing how they work — cutting back on hours or trading full-time employment for multiple part-time jobs — since the pandemic began.

The most common reason is because of child care issues.

And Black, Hispanic and low-income women appear to be shouldering the biggest burdens, often for the lowest pay.

Debra Lancaster, the executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, said the variables around the issue are widespread.

“This is the part of the ‘She-cession’ that no one is talking about,” she said. “Labor force participation rates among women have largely recovered in New Jersey, but that’s only part of the story.

“Thousands of women are sacrificing full-time employment, higher wages, health insurance and other benefits for the flexibility to care for young children and aging parents.”

Researchers analyzed four federal datasets to produce a comprehensive, 72-page report on The Status of Women in New Jersey.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Big picture: Women’s unemployment peaked at 18.4% in April 2020 and outpaced men’s unemployment through the end of 2021.
  • Pay gap: Women held 63.4% of frontline essential jobs at the height of the pandemic, but they brought home substantially less. On average, men earned $56,506 and women earned $40,664 in frontline roles. Hispanic women earned the least: just $27,082.
  • Multiple jobs: In 2018, 4.4% of men and 4.3% of women held more than one job. The numbers trended in opposite directions during the pandemic. By the end of 2021, 4.1% of men and 5.2% of women — including 5.7% of Black women — held multiple jobs.
  • Child care access: Even after schools returned to in-person instruction, 23.1% of families still experienced child care disruptions in the last six months of 2021. The number was even higher for low-income families (26.9%) and Hispanic families (26.8%).
  • Difficult choices: Many women in households earning less than $50,000 cut their work hours (20.5%), left their job (14.6%) or took unpaid leave (13.2%) because of child care disruptions. By contrast, women in middle-income and high-income households were more likely to take paid leave or supervise their kids while working from home.

Economist Sarah Small, a postdoctoral researcher in the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, said the child care crisis never went away for many low-income families.

“Nearly a quarter of all Black and Hispanic working women cut back on their hours because of child care issues, and 5 to 6% lost their job because of it,” she said. “We can’t fix racial inequality in New Jersey without making child care more accessible and affordable.”

The researchers outlined several recommendations to improve conditions for New Jersey women and their families.

The most important: Improving child care access and affordability and enacting a state-level child tax credit.

Rutgers study: Role of women in workplace has dramatically changed