The choices working parents make now will shape the future for women

Since we’re still in the thick of the Covid-19 crisis, it’s not clear what will be the long-term consequences of going through it. Changes for the better—to make society fairer—are still possible. But the pandemic has been far from a leveler.

Among other areas, this is becoming clear in gender roles. School closures mean kids are at home, with their needs for play, meals, attention, and education crashing into the fine balance that allowed many households to function. And in plenty of cases, the new needs have exposed inequalities that already existed, but were mitigated by outside forces like paid childcare, family support, and domestic help.

In March and April 2020, scientists from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Zurich set out to study inequality in the impacts of coronavirus, via surveys of more than 20,000 people in Germany, the US, and UK. Their findings focus on education and gender, and conclude—perhaps unsurprisingly, given the vulnerability of some in these groups—that women and generally people with less education have suffered the biggest setbacks. But their findings also contain some fascinating nuance on gender roles, some of which the researchers themselves can’t explain.

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