Wednesday, January 13, 2021
The Disparate Impact of COVID on Single Mother Families and the Argument for Human Rights Protections
Theresa Glennon, Alexis Fennell, Kaylin Hawkins, Madison McNulty, "Shelter from the Storm: Human Rights Protections for Single Mother Families in the Time of COVID-19" , 27 Wm. & Mary J. Race, Gender & Soc. Justice ___ (2021 Forthcoming)
This Article assesses the effects in the US of COVID-19, with particular attention to its impact on single mother families. It scrutinizes decades of deliberate legal and policy choices that have left them financially vulnerable and exposed to enormous risks to their health and well-being. To remedy this situation, this Article argues for adopting a human rights framework that can reverse this disastrous course.
This Article conveys the pandemic experiences of some single mothers and their place in larger demographic trends. It identifies the disparate impacts that the pandemic has had on single mother families and the laws and policies that have either supported these individuals and their families or left them adrift. The Article then examines the structure of employment and family assistance laws and policies. Inadequate employment discrimination protections contribute to the financial vulnerability of single mother households. These vulnerabilities force some single mothers into welfare and other assistance programs that are materially inadequate and purposefully humiliating. Government officials have used sexist and racist tropes to vilify single mothers as immoral, lazy and opportunistic to justify this denigration. After reviewing this statutory framework, the Article briefly explains why constitutional law has not provided an adequate remedy. It reviews the Supreme Court’s use of extremely deferential standards of review of government decisions that negatively and disparately affect single mothers, including BIPOC single mothers, regarding employment laws and social and welfare programs. Finally, to address these problems the Article proposes use of a human rights framework. Such a framework would bring the US in line with most other developed states that have embraced these principles. More importantly, it would help protect against multiple forms of discrimination that currently fall outside of constitutional protection and help ensure adequate provision of material resources to the most vulnerable among us.