Childcare Needs and Parents’ Labor Supply: Evidence from the COVID-19 Lockdown

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School closure during the COVID-19 outbreak could cause disruptions to parents’ labor supply. We use data from a unique survey on 1,354 junior high school students and their parents from Shaanxi province, China, to address this question. We find that this temporary shock that increased the needs for family-provided childcare significantly reduced the probability of parents returning to work when workplaces were already reopened, but schools were still closed. We document inequality both within and across households due to parents’ heterogeneous responses. Mothers, migrant workers, and children from low-income families are the most vulnerable group. Since parents needed to spend more time supervising their children when classes moved online, such additional childcare needs further increased parents’ burden of school closure.

Last updated on 10/12/2020