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Resilient But Not Recovered: After Two Years of the COVID-19 Crisis, Women Are Still Struggling

In the two years since the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States upended our economy and our lives, ongoing uncertainty about the future has become a constant for many. Although the pandemic-induced recession is officially over, and we are in a period of economic recovery—due in large part to the American Rescue Plan Act and other robust relief measures enacted in 2020 and 2021—millions of people lost jobs and income that they have not yet recovered.

To better understand the impact of the pandemic on women and their families, NWLC collaborated with Sprout Insight to conduct in-depth interviews and focus groups with women around the country in December 2021, and with polling firm GQR to conduct a nationally representative mixed mode survey of 3,800 adults from February 7–25, 2022. At the state level, we oversampled residents of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and West Virginia.

In Resilient But Not Recovered: After Two Years of the COVID-19 Crisis, Women Are Still Struggling, NWLC combines analysis of federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau with the findings from this qualitative and quantitative research to reveal how women are really faring at work and in their lives after two years of a punishing pandemic. And in profiles drawn from the polling data, NWLC spotlights the experiences of four groups who were especially hard-hit by the pandemic, and who were failed by U.S. policies long before the pandemic began: Black women, Latinas, mothers, and LGBTQ women and nonbinary people.


What We Found

Note: In March 2022, survey data were weighted by age, race, and census region to reflect the U.S. population; in June 2022, income weights by race were also applied, leading to small data adjustments from the prior reports. 

The data is sobering. More than two-thirds of the net jobs lost since the pandemic began are women’s jobs—and while men have returned to their pre-pandemic labor force size, over 1.1 million fewer women were in the labor force in February 2022 than in February of 2020 

In addition, women have shouldered most of the new and persistent unpaid caregiving demands wrought by COVID-19, which have too often forced them to make impossible choices between maintaining their jobs and caring for their families. Among parents who lost or quit a job during the pandemic, only 46 percent of mothers have gotten a new job, compared to 76 percent of fathers.  

The recovery has been uneven: many women—particularly Black women, Latinas, and other women of color—are still struggling to make ends meet. More than one in three women—including 60 percent of women who lost or quit a job during the pandemic and 48 percent of women in jobs paying $15/hour or less—say their family’s financial situation is worse today than before the pandemic, compared to 22 percent of men. And 57 percent of women report that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health. 

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, it has never been clearer that policies to bolster families’ incomes, ensure access to health care—including mental health support and reproductive health care—without cost barriers, and help people both work and care for their loved ones are essential to drive a full and equitable recovery. Delivering these long overdue reforms will ensure we build a new and better economy that finally works for women—and for all of us.