Economic Anxiety Index®

1 in 5 parents quit job or took leave to deal with remote school

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 23, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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According to the results of our latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, nearly 20% of parents with kids learning at home had to take a leave of absence or quit their job. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Economic Anxiety Index®

1 in 5 parents quit job or took leave to deal with remote school

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 23, 2020
According to the results of our latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, nearly 20% of parents with kids learning at home had to take a leave of absence or quit their job. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
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The demands of remote and hybrid schooling are hitting working parents hard, according to the results of our latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll. Nearly 20% of parents with kids learning at home had to take a leave of absence or quit their job.

Kelly Newman of New Jersey is one of them. She and her wife, Rachel, have a 9-month-old, twin 3-year-olds, an 8-year-old and twin 9-year-olds.

Several of the kids have special needs. They’re going to school half days, a couple days a week, then learning online and going to therapy — all at different times and places.

“Oh, my God. Yelling at kids all day long — it’s all I do,” Newman said.

Before the pandemic, part-time nannies made it possible for both parents to work full-time. Kelly Newman is a family law attorney and Rachel is a teacher. Now with the kids frequently home, they can’t afford full-time help. As much as they tried to split the child care between them, it wasn’t working.

“I can’t be like, ‘Oh, Judge, I’m sorry. I can’t have that hearing that day. My boys have to go to PT,'” Kelly Newman said.

So in July, she quit her job. She’d lost most of her clients while out on extended family leave, and the family needed the strong benefits Rachel’s teaching job provides.

“It was like, I can’t afford to go to work,” she said.

According to federal data, 865,00 women dropped out of the labor force between August and September — four times the number of men. Women still earn less than men, so in heterosexual households, it often makes the most sense for mothers to sacrifice work to care for family.

Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan, said once parents pull back from work, they can fall behind forever.

“You’re just not put on the same kind of track, and you’re not given the same kind of access to promotions and raises,” Stevenson said.

Taking a break can also contribute to perceptions that mothers aren’t as dedicated to work. But Stevenson hopes the pandemic could be a turning point.

“When you go to interview for a job and you’ve got that COVID blank on your CV, it’s not going to be that unusual,” she said.

Kelly Newman hopes to start her own law practice when things go back to “normal,” but right now that feels far away.

“Having advanced degrees does nothing for you if the economy isn’t stable enough to allow you the ability to work hard,” she said.

She’s now trying to get unemployment, but her application is tied up in appeals.


Check out the full poll results here, and read more about our methodology below:

The Marketplace-Edison Research Poll is a national survey of Americans 18 and older. A total of 1,647 respondents were interviewed, with 725 interviews conducted by telephone and 922 interviews conducted online. The interviews were conducted from Sept. 25 through Oct. 8, 2020, in both English and Spanish. For purposes of analysis, respondents who identify as Black or Hispanic/Latino were oversampled and then weighted back to their proper proportion of all adults.  

The data was weighted to match the most recent United States population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for age, gender, race, income and region of the country.

Asian Americans are included and represented in the poll findings, but we did not oversample in a way that would allow us to analyze this group discretely. 

Editor’s note: While our poll asked respondents to identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, we’ve changed the language here to Latinx to reflect Marketplace’s editorial guidelines. 

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