Equal Pay for Moms During COVID-19

Equal Pay for Moms During COVID-19
June 4, 2020 is Moms’ Equal Pay Day, marking the amount of additional days that moms have to work to earn the same amount of money as the average U.S. dad earned last year. (Gilles Guerraz / Flickr)

“Once COVID-19 happened, we couldn’t afford [childcare] anymore,” said Tanesha Borgman, a speech pathologist and mom to a son with special needs. “We’re hoping we can afford [it] when I have a full paycheck again.”

Across the country, parents are adjusting to homeschooling and a lack of childcare as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns and virtual schooling have exposed what women have known for decades—that moms work harder and longer than dads, and receive less acknowledgement and compensation. 

June 4, 2020 is Moms’ Equal Pay Day—marking the amount of additional days that moms have to work to earn the same amount of money as the average U.S. dad earned last year. Mothers who work full-time outside the home earn on average 70 cents on the dollar compared to fathers.

Unfortunately, these numbers actually understate the severity of this wage gap, because they do not take bonuses, benefits and other non-salary advantages into account. 

When total earnings are taken into account, women in general earn only 57 cents per dollar compared to men, and as a result are denied tens of thousands of dollars of possible income every year.

And as is so often the case, women of color bear the hardest burden. Compared to white fathers, Native American, Latina and Black mothers all earn less than 50 cents per dollar.

During COVID-19, these wage gaps have extreme financial impacts on mothers and their families. At the same time, we are relying on mothers to perform essential work at their jobs and at home. While mothers with children under 18 are less than 16 percent of the working population, they make up a large percentage of essential workers—including

  • 19 percent of janitors, maids and housekeepers;
  • 27.7 percent of childcare workers;
  • 29.6 percent of personal care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistants; and
  • 34.8 percent of registered nurses. 

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At home, moms are overwhelmingly finding themselves responsible for educating and caring for their children. Mothers are doing the majority of homeschooling, and are looking after their children an average of 10.3 hours every day—2.3 hours more than fathers—while also doing 1.7 hours of housework more than fathers. In total, mothers are spending over 12 hours every day on childcare and housework.

This means that their time and concentration for paid work has declined rapidly. Because they are being forced to work and provide childcare at the same time, mothers are only able to do one-third the amount of uninterrupted paid work as fathers are. As a result, women are being forced to choose between their children and their jobs. And in many cases, that choice has been made for them; mothers have been 23 percent more likely to lose their jobs than fathers during this crisis.

All of these barriers to earning an equitable wage show that mothers are being chronically underpaid and their work is being undervalued. Consequently, families—especially families with a single mother—are facing severe economic impacts as a result of COVID-19. And in turn, this pandemic may worsen the wage gap, if moms are consistently let go from their jobs or are forced to resign to care for their children.

Unfortunately, the wage gap between moms and dads has stayed relatively consistent over time, with the divide in 2018 being only two cents less than it was in 2008. But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to fathers being more aware of the household work their wives have always done. On average, dads are doing almost twice as many hours of childcare as they were in 2015.

As we mark this year’s Moms’ Equal Pay Day, now is the time to join groups like MomsRising in the fight for fair, equitable wages for mothers across the country.


Katie Fleischer (she/they) is a Ms. editorial assistant working on the Front and Center series and Keeping Score.