Childcare, work or worries? What explains the decline in parents' well-being at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany?
Keywords:childcare, gender division of labor, coronavirus crisis, NEPS-C, life satisfaction
Objective: We examine how care arrangements, general and altered working conditions, and worries influenced subjective well-being at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic for working parents in Germany.
Background: Prior research suggests several reasons for declines in subjective well-being, particularly for working mothers. We employ Pearlin's (1989) stress process model to explore the role of parental childcare, altered working conditions and amplified worries of working parents in terms of increased stressors and modified resources to cope with the extraordinary situation.
Method: We use data from two starting cohorts from the National Educational Panel Study and its supplementary COVID-19 web survey from spring 2020 to examine possible heterogeneities in contextual factors for individual-level changes in the well-being of working mothers and fathers.
Results: We confirm a more pronounced decline in well-being for working mothers than fathers. Part-time work and access to emergency care reduce the gender gap in decreased well-being. Conversely, young children in the household and personal worries are associated with lower well-being for both parents. However, we cannot explain the more significant decrease in mothers’ well-being by increased childcare responsibilities or altered working conditions.
Conclusion: A greater decline in well-being indicates a particular burden among working mothers. However, it cannot be linked solely to gendered inequalities in the changes of paid and unpaid work during the first months of the pandemic.
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