Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 on Economic and Retirement Security

General Information

Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 on Economic and Retirement Security
María J. Prados and Jeremy Burke
Publication Type
Working paper
MRDRC Working Paper Series
The COVID-19 pandemic had severe impacts on the U.S. labor market with particularly large effects on working women. We use longitudinal survey data from a nationally representative internet panel to (1) document the pandemic’s gendered effects on employment and short-term financial stability and examine heterogeneity by race and ethnicity, marital status and household composition, and (2) use respondents’ earnings histories and expectations about future labor market participation and retirement age to forecast the impact on Social Security retirement benefits. Overall, while we find evidence that women suffered larger employment losses than men during the pandemic, consistent with prior research, our evidence suggests that the gender gap in employment was driven, at least in part, by women from traditionally more economically advantaged groups — white women, married women, and women in households with high incomes — leaving the workforce. We find little evidence that gender disparities in short-term economic stability grew as a result of the gender differences in employment. Rather our estimates suggest that gender gaps in short-term financial stability decreased over the first year of the pandemic, in part due heterogeneous effects from the stimulus. Despite the gender differences in employment dynamics for certain groups, we find no evidence of differential impacts on our forecasts for Social Security retirement benefits. Collectively, our evidence is consistent with the possibility that gender difference in employment was driven in part by relatively financially stable women voluntarily leaving the workforce.