Monday, January 18, 2021
From Naomi Cahn (UVA), writing for Forbes:
Chances are that, like me, you know someone who has postponed their wedding. Or someone who has left her job because she can’t find child care during the pandemic. Or mothers who are home-schooling their children.
The pandemic has had a profound effect on the family, and that, in turn has had a profound effect on the economy. As the US Census reported, women were more than twice as likely as men not to be working because of pandemic-related child care issues. Women lost 156,000 jobs in December, while men’s jobs increased. And 2.1 million women have left the labor market entirely. There are predictions that the pandemic may set women back in the workplace by at least 10 years.
The pandemic is having other effects on the family. First, even prior to the pandemic, marriage and divorce rates were dropping.
And it appears that the pandemic has resulted in declining rates of both planned and unplanned pregnancies – although you might think otherwise with the bumper crop of celebrity pregnancies.
The reasons for all of these demographic changes may be the same: lack of economic resources and financial insecurity due to the pandemic (not an issue for the celebrities expecting babies). One reason that people delay marriage or decide not to marry is they feel they have not yet achieved the necessary economic security they view as critical to having a stable marriage, notes Linda McClain, the Robert Kent Professor of Law at Boston University. The average wedding costs nearly $34,000, points out Professor Amanda Miller, an expert in family and sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.
Plus, divorce can be expensive. It’s not just a question of paying the lawyers, but two households cost more than one. While divorce rates have been consistently low for college- educated couples, for those most likely to have lost their jobs during the current pandemic, current divorce rates may be artificially low, according to Professor Miller. Couples may wish to split up, but not be able to afford to do so right now.
And there is another hopeful sign: the number of engagements is increasing, with jewelry ring sales rising. But that is not a surprise to Professor Miller, because “getting engaged can be low cost- certainly much cheaper than having a baby or getting divorced.” As she notes, a ring is a one-time cost, so a stimulus check or bonus for front-line workers might help pay for that.
And, she adds, it’s unclear whether this will result in a flood of weddings (and divorces and babies) post-pandemic. While individuals may be excited to move forward with life events post-COVID-19, having postponed these events for so long may change how people feel about them. Ultimately, she predicts, given the economic downturn that women, in particular, have experienced recently, we might expect the current trends (increased engagements but decreased/delayed childbearing, marriage, and divorce) to continue.
Read more here.