Report: Single Mothers Bore Brunt Of Pandemic Anxieties
The pandemic was a tough time for most people in Wyoming. But women, especially single mothers, felt more than their fair share of employment and financial anxieties.
A new report from the Wyoming Women's Foundation shows that women filed 42 percent of unemployment claims in 2020. Women, though, only account for just 40 percent of Wyoming's workforce. They filed just 31 percent of unemployment claims in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
Rebekah Smith with the Wyoming Women's Foundation said some of that disproportionate impact comes from gender differences between industries.
"A lot of jobs were lost in leisure and hospitality," Smith said. "A lot of those jobs are held by women predominantly and so it's no surprise that where those industries were struggling, that women would find themselves without employment."
Unemployment leads to other problems. The foundation report shows that 38 percent of single mothers had little confidence in their ability to make rent or mortgage payments.
Meanwhile, that figure for parents in multi-parent households was 18 percent. For single fathers, it was 19 percent.
The report also touched on food insecurity. About half of all single moms in Wyoming had little confidence in their ability to afford food in the next four weeks. Less than one-third of single fathers and parents in multi-parent households shared that fear.
"It's unfortunately no surprise that single moms were experiencing the highest anxiety around that," Smith said.
She said investments in broadband infrastructure, and continuing to allow remote work, could allow more single mothers to stay in their job.
“Women with childcare responsibilities who have remote work access are much less likely — about a third less likely — to report a need to leave their job or an intention to leave their job," Smith said. "Now certainly, remote work isn't possible for all jobs — for instance, in leisure and hospitality. But in sectors where it is possible, really keeping those flexible work policies available is going to be something that’s helpful."
The Wyoming Women's Foundation report draws on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau's Pulse Survey. That survey collects information on the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in every state.
Smith said she hopes legislators will bear in mind the report’s findings as they continue to grapple with the ramifications of COVID-19. All of the foundation's work is geared toward promoting the economic self-sufficiency of girls and women.
"We want to make sure that the state is investing in women's ability to stay in the workforce," Smith said. "Not just for their own families, but for the economy of Wyoming."