NULab core faculty member Alicia Sasser Modestino, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy and Urban Affairs, recently spoke to ABC News about the many women leaving the workforce because of their inability to access childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Women’s Law Center found that 2.2 million women left their jobs during the pandemic; without available or affordable childcare, many women faced the difficult choice between keeping their job or looking after children. Modestino’s research estimates that as women leave the workforce or reduce their hours en masse to fulfill child care, GDP will decline by up to $700 billion from lost productivity.

Professor Modestino said that economists like herself are describing this childcare crisis as a “she-cession.” Closures of schools and day care centers disrupted the schedules of working parents; many women had in-person jobs that could not be done from home, and lacked access to “a nanny or a babysitter or someone else that they can turn to to watch their kids.” As women leave the workforce under these circumstances, they will face obstacles in returning to work after the pandemic. According to Modestino, “A lot of the times we’ve seen when women take time off from a career, whether it be maternity leave or a year, it takes time to get back into the labor market. Right now, the labor market is not great either. And so this is likely to set women back a generation.”

These observations are confirmed by Modestino’s recent national survey of 2,557 working parents between May 10, 2020 (Mother’s Day) and June 21, 2020 (Father’s Day). Her July 2020 report, co-authored with Jamie Ladge (associate professor of Management and Organizational Development at Northeastern) and Alisa Lincoln (professor of Sociology and Health Sciences at Northeastern), found that 13.3% of women and men left their jobs or reduced hours to care for children, and that 61% of parents working from home struggled to do so without childcare. The lack of childcare for parents who can still work remotely is equally significant, so Modestino told ABC News that working mothers should not struggle to meet a pre-pandemic standard of parenting. She said, “It’s always going to be moms picking up the loose ends and tying them for people. Give yourself permission to leave some stuff untied.”

Professor Modestino has also written about the lack of available childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic for The Washington Post.