Many of our faculty have been focused on unpacking how the pandemic has impacted our social world. Professors Berg and Noonan each received funding from the National Science Foundation for their Covid research.
Professor Mark Berg is studying the health and socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 in understudied rural communities in Iowa, especially in meat-packing towns with large populations of immigrants. The project surveys residents of midwestern small towns to document the health, socioeconomic, and emotional effects of the pandemic to determine how informal and formal responses and needs vary across diverse small towns. He is joined on the project by Nicole Novak (University of Iowa) and David Peters (Iowa State University).
Professor Noonan’s research ascertains how the COVID-19 pandemic - and the widespread closure of childcare centers and schools - alters U.S. working parents’ childcare arrangements, and in turn, their day-to-day activities. Professor Noonan created and carried out a nationally representative survey of working parents (n = 1,900) in May 2020. All survey respondents were employed and living with at least one child age 12 or younger in the month preceding the pandemic. Data were collected on a rich set of measures, including parents’ childcare arrangements (e.g., type, hours, cost), work lives (e.g., hours worked, income, occupation, flexibility policies, etc.), and time spent on core daily activities (childcare, supervising schoolwork, paid work, sleep, etc.) both pre- and post- childcare center/school closure.
Results from the study show that pre-existing gender inequalities in three core domains - paid work, childcare, and housework - were exacerbated by the pandemic.
- After the pandemic, women were less likely to remain employed compared to men and, among those who remained working, women were more likely to report difficulty concentrating at work and difficulty fulfilling core work responsibilities. When asked “who does your child interrupt more when working?”, 70 percent of women replied “me” and only 30 percent of men did so.
- Results show that partnered women were significantly more likely than partnered men to report that their time spent on a variety of tasks – supervising/watching children, helping children with schoolwork, cooking, cleaning, and laundry - had increased “a lot” post COVID. For example, approximately 40 percent of women and only 25 percent of men said that time spent supervising/watching children and helping children with schoolwork had increased significantly.
- COVID childcare arrangements particularly relied on the caregiving work of the respondent or their spouse/partner. Most said they used these approaches because other arrangements (e.g., hiring a babysitter) were not safe. Interestingly, partnered men were significantly more likely than partnered women to report their spouse/partner (62 percent versus 35 percent) as a childcare arrangement post-COVID.