Posted by: Josh Lehner | August 27, 2020

COVID Challenges Working Oregon Parents (Graphic of the Week)

As a new school year begins here in the weeks ahead, I wanted to circle back on some work our office did at the start of the pandemic and repurpose it to highlight the challenges facing a sizable share of the workforce. There is no question that online learning impacts how students learn, how teachers teach, it also has economic and racial inequities when it comes to access to technology and the like. However one additional challenge is how parents need to juggle work and helping their kids with school at the same time. This is especially true when daycares and after school programs are limited due to the pandemic.

After digging into the Census data again, 1 out of every 6 Oregonians in the labor force fits the following description. They have kids, work in an occupation that cannot be done remotely, and do not have another non-working adult present in the household. In other words these 350,000 or so Oregonians are in a bind.

Of course this doesn’t take into account the numerous creative/stressful workarounds households come up with like adults working different shifts or hours, one adult (mostly moms) stops working all together to provide care, having friends or relatives help with the kids, etc. Even so we know this represents a sizable share of the workforce, and another COVID-related challenge to overcome at the micro (family) and macro (labor supply) level.

Finally, the impact across the income distribution here isn’t as big as I would have thought. In fact lower-income households have the fewest share of parents in a bind. Yes, lower-income households are more likely to work in occupations that cannot be done remotely. However lower-income households are less likely to have kids, and those that do are more likely to have another non-working adult living there. Those two factors more than offset the occupational mix of not being able to work from home.

It turns out that upper middle-income households — broadly speaking those in the $65,000 to $110,000 range — are the most impacted. The main challenge they face is not necessarily the ability to work from home, but rather they tend to be dual earner households and have the smallest share of non-working adults present.

Higher-income household parents are in a bind an average amount, in large part due to their ability to work from home given their occupational mix. And this leaves to the side any discussion on the potential for “pods” or hiring outside assistance and the like.

All told the pandemic is taking a toll on our lives, the economy, and the choices we face as a society. This intersection of COVID, working parents, and school is just one example.


Responses

  1. Josh,

    I understand the limited scope of your analysis, and it does provide one “peephole” into the challenges for parents.

    However, given the very limited scope, you are making for too sweeping a conclusion when you state: “It turns out that upper middle-income households ā€” broadly speaking those in the $65,000 to $110,000 range ā€” are the most impacted.”

    All you’ve really established is that there are proportionally more households in one income bracket that: have kid(s), not able to work from home, and no other non-working adult at during some period of the day.

    But a fully meaningful example would consider such things as: a) how greater income provides options not available to lower incomes; b) the covid-19 risk of the jobs (e.g., a nursing home staff person has a higher statistical chance of being infected than a person who drives around inspecting utility poles.

    My “intuition” is that I’d rather be upper-income with a kid with two jobs *before Covid-19* than a poverty-level worker with a kid.

    • Thanks Paul. Yes of course I think we would all rather be rich than poor and that being rich provides other avenues to solve issues that arise. That said the point here isn’t about being inconvenienced. It’s about people who face no good options. On paper they literally face the choice of going to work or taking care of their child(ren). How they “solve” this problem isn’t known.

  2. […] Source: COVID Challenges Working Oregon Parents (Graphic of the Week) | Oregon Office of Economic Analysis […]


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