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Missing Child Care Isn't Holding Back the U.S. Recovery

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Missing Child Care Isn't Holding Back the U.S. Recovery

May 19, 2021

work-force-rates

Economists are still trying to make sense of the labor market after a disappointing jobs number and months of slow growth, despite a reopened economy. One theory why people aren't going back to work is child care. Without schools fully open or other forms of day care available, women can't return to work. But the data suggests this is not holding back the labor market recovery. The chart below is the employment-to-population ratio and it shows women are not having a slower recovery than men. In fact, they've had a slightly better recovery. This may be because they tend to work in public-facing service jobs which are calling back more workers. 

Economists estimate that women with small children are slightly are less likely to return to work than women without. But this can't explain the bigger labor market trends. Perhaps because women with small children make up only 12% of the labor force. And men with small children are more likely to go back to work than men without. 

No doubt, lack of school and childcare has been very hard on American families and terrible for children, but it is not holding back the labor market. A more likely culprit is the high unemployment benefit or lingering fears of the virus. 

Allison Schrager is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow her on Twitter here.

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