More than 28,000 Illinois mothers could return to the workforce if schools re-opened

May 8, 2021

Women with children are 2 percentage points more likely to return to work in states where governments have re-opened schools

PRESS RELEASE from the
ILLINOIS POLICY INSTITUTE

CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

More than 28,000 Illinois mothers could return to the workforce if schools re-opened 
 Women with children are 2 percentage points more likely to return to work in states where governments have re-opened schools 

CHICAGO (May 8, 2021) – States where governments have re-opened schools have also increased labor force participation of women and mothers, national data shows. The lack of in-person learning has particularly harmed moms in Illinois, where their workforce participation has barely budged since the start of the pandemic.

Analysis from the Illinois Policy Institute finds more than 28,000 Illinois mothers are still out of the workforce due to COVID-related job losses and school closures.

Comparatively, labor force participation of mothers was 2 percentage points higher in states with orders to re-open schools than for similar women in the rest of the country. In those states – Arkansas, Iowa, Florida and Texas – prime working-age mothers have rejoined the workforce at increased rates despite having lower labor force participation rates prior to the pandemic.

A lack of work prospects, jobs deemed non-essential by public health officials, rising child care costs and school closures have led to mothers being disproportionately damaged by COVID-19 job losses. Mothers without college degrees and minorities were most likely to still be out of work, with Black mothers most harmed.

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has proposed reducing Illinois’ Invest in Kids scholarship program, which provides alternative schooling options for low- and middle-income families, from the current 75% tax credit to 40%. The average annual household income of participants is $38,000, and 49% of participating students are Black or Hispanic.

Orphe Divounguy, chief economist at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:

“At the onset of COVID-19 and the state’s economic restrictions, mothers with children in the household exited the labor force at a higher rate than any other demographic. This is because mothers still bear the brunt of the responsibility for child rearing, according to data from the American Time Use Survey.

“This decline in labor force participation for working moms will have negative implications for their lifetime earnings and for the gender employment gap. Research shows re-opening schools is essential for getting women back into the workforce.”

To read more about mothers in the workforce, visit: illin.is/momsatwork

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.