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Northeastern researchers find lack of child care has been a significant challenge for workers during the pandemic

A Northeastern University economics professor says her research indicates that lack of child care during the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge for the country’s workforce.

Alicia Sasser Modestino said in a tweet over the weekend that a national survey of parents found a substantial number had to leave their jobs or reduce their hours because of child care issues.

“Our survey of 2,557 working parents from May 10 to June 22 finds 13% of working parents had to quit a job or reduce hours due to lack of #childcare. Parents lost a full day of work on average to address their kids’ needs,” she said in a tweet.

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She said in a telephone interview that the child care system had problems before the pandemic and “like many other systems, the vulnerabilities of that system have been greatly exaggerated and exposed by the pandemic.”

The crisis has “ripped the Band Aid off the child care issue,” she said, exposing long-standing problems.

“We need more of it. We need better child care, and it needs to be affordable, as well,” she said. Child care workers also need better pay, she said.

The difficulties of holding a job while the children are at home due to the pandemic are clear both in the data collected and in selected in-depth interviews conducted by researchers, she said.

In the short term, as the pandemic continues to loom over the country, she suggested, the country could benefit from measures such as instituting a temporary national paid family leave policy, and providing more support to child care providers, camps, and schools to help them reopen safely.

She said researchers, who also include Northeastern professors Jamie Ladge and Alisa Lincoln, would be checking back with the nationally representative panel later this month to see how families are handling child care in the summer, and again sometime in the fall.

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The child-care crunch triggered by the pandemic has rapidly become a crisis for many workers and companies that is hindering the economic recovery, disproportionately harming women, and threatening to leave deep scars for years to come, The Washington Post reported last week.

A consensus is emerging among top economists and business leaders that getting children back into day cares and schools is critical to getting the economy back to normal. The American Academy of Pediatrics also says it would be better for the children, warning that keeping them out of school in the fall would threaten a degree of “social isolation” for children that could lead to mental and physical harm, the Post reported.

Yet, with the virus weighing on many people’s minds, many school systems are discussing only a partial reopening in the fall or remaining virtual, and up to half of America’s child care centers may shut permanently since they can’t survive financially, industry leaders warn, leaving families with even fewer options.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.



Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com