Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Oct 7: A federal appeals court rules that Trump’s accountant must hand over his tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors. Facebook says that it will block all political ads through Election Day. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awards the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna, the first two women to share the honor.

From the Cutting Room Floor ...

As Statista and the Institute for Family Studies have noted, there are almost 15 million single mother families in America and 2.6 million single father families (the highest in the world). A full quarter of U.S. children live in single parent homes.[1] While most single fathers tend to be older, with more solid incomes, and partners in the home, single mothers are in the lowest income bracket in America and are more likely to be raising their kids alone.

Being a single mom has always been hard, but 2020 has made it more desperate than ever. The problems are rooted both in the precarity of women’s work and in the now-constant obligations of child care. Women held 58% of service jobs before the pandemic hit. Among all women, 17% have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, compared with 13% of men, according to the analysis. To put that in real terms, by mid-April, 5.7 million women were out of work, in contrast to 3.2 million men. For single mothers, the numbers are even worse. The number of single moms with jobs is 22% lower than it was a year ago.[2] Tim Henderson at the Pew Charitable Trust says that these disparities are rooted in the kinds of work that single mothers tend to do. Eighty-three percent of waitresses lost their jobs in mid-April, 72% of single-moms working as cleaners, 58% of single moms who were cooks and a third of those who worked as personal care aides, were also out of work.[3] These losses are at a far higher rate than parents of other families with children.

These huge job losses are rooted in the crisis of childcare that accompanied the pandemic. Unlike much of the western world, childcare is a luxury in America that must be paid for out of pocket by working parents.  The Center for American Progress reported in August that  millennial mothers are nearly three times more likely than millennial fathers to report being “unable to work due to a school or child care closure.”[4] The United States has a chronically under sourced childcare system and a flawed family medical leave policy that makes it incredibly difficult for the majority single mothers to take care of their kids and go to work.[5] For instance, in the relief packages that were passed last April, Family Medical Leave (FMLA) was extended to twelve weeks at two-thirds pay for people who had to stay home and provide childcare. It also added $500 million to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). This would provide food to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lost their jobs due to Covid-19. However, as researchers at the Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy have shown, for women who are already living in poverty, a one-third pay cut can make it impossible to pay the rent or buy food. Even more problematic is the fact that the FMLA relief does not apply to temporary or contract workers and, thanks to a powerful corporate lobby, companies with over 500 employees (like Amazon and Tyson Foods) do not have to offer FMLA at all.[6] Sadly, the industries that are “least likely to offer paid leave benefits– hospitality, hotels and food services, retail, and cleaning services,” are the same industries that employ low-income women. Those same workers have a high exposure risk of COVID-19 and yet are put in positions where they cannot stay home and still keep a roof over their heads. And when the kids need school or they get sick, mothers are over ten times more likely than fathers to stay at home to care for the children. Low-income mothers who stay home to take care of sick children do not get paid.

As a consequence, a majority of single- parent households are either receiving or seeking assistance through SNAP (34.1 percent versus 13.1 percent for households with children overall) and unemployment benefits (24.5 percent versus 18.4 percent). And even with this support, 11.5 percent of single parents still cannot find enough food to eat or have kids missing meals. A full 21.6% of single moms (versus 15.0 percent for households with children overall) will not be able to make their minimum debt payments in the next three months.[7] As Betsey Stevenson, the former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, put it, “The impact of the child care crisis on women’s outcomes is going to be felt over the next decade.”[8] If only we had a funded childcare industry and workers had access to paid leave….



[1] Erin Duffin, “Number of Single Mothers U.S. 2019,” Statista,

[2] Carole Levine, “Single Moms Hit Hard by Economic Impact of COVID-19,” Non Profit News, Nonprofit Quarterly, June 23, 2020,

[3] Tim Henderson, “Single Mothers Hit Hard by Job Losses,” Pew, May 26, 2020,

[4] Rasheed Malik and Taryn Morrissey, “The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Forcing Millennial Mothers Out of the Workforce,” Center for American Progress, August 12, 2020,

[5] Titan Alon et al., “The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality,” Working Paper, Working Paper Series (National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2020), 19,

[6] Moore, Quianta, Joyce Beebe, and Zeinab Bakhiet. “Hidden Figures: The Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Low-Income Women and Their Children,” April 9, 2020, 7.

[7] Oliver Armantier, Gizem Kosar, and Rachel Pomerantz, “The Disproportionate Effects of COVID-19 on Households with Children,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York, August 13, 2020,

[8] Betsy Stevenson and Zach Stanton, “How the Child Care Crisis Will Distort the Economy for a Generation,” Politico, July 23, 2020,

Read more

“Vice Presidential Debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris,” C-SPAN, October 7, 2020.

Randy Rainbow and Patti Lapone, “If Donald Got Fired,” A Randy Rainbow Song Parody, October 7, 2020,

“PBS KIDS Talk About Race & Racism,” PBS KIDS, October 9, 2020,


Collinson, Stephen. “Trump’s Erratic Behavior Continues as He Halts Stimulus Talks and Spreads Falsehoods on Pandemic.” CNN, October 7, 2020.

Levine, Carole. “Single Moms Hit Hard by Economic Impact of COVID-19.” Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly, June 23, 2020.

Henderson, Tim. “Single Mothers Hit Hard by Job Losses,” May 26, 2020.

Armantier, Oliver, Gizem Kosar, and Rachel Pomerantz. “The Disproportionate Effects of COVID-19 on Households with Children.” Federal Reserve Bank of New York, August 13, 2020.

Murphy, Joseph, and Kerri Tobin. “Homelessness Comes to School.” SAGE Publications Inc, October 7, 2020.

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