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ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/reus20
The impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality in
the labor market and gender-role attitudes
Malte Reichelt , Kinga Makovi & Anahit Sargsyan
To cite this article: Malte Reichelt , Kinga Makovi & Anahit Sargsyan (2020): The impact of
COVID-19 on gender inequality in the labor market and gender-role attitudes, European Societies,
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14616696.2020.1823010
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
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The impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality in the
labor market and gender-role attitudes
, Kinga Makovi
and Anahit Sargsyan
Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE;
Institute for Employment
Research, Nuremberg, Germany
COVID-19 and ensuing changes in mobility have altered employment relations
for millions of people across the globe. Emerging evidence shows that women
may be more severely aﬀected by this change. The pandemic, however, may
have an impact beyond the immediate restructuring of employment and
shift gender-role attitudes within households as a result of changes in the
division of household labor. We analyze a representative sample of
respondents in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore and show that transitions
to unemployment, reductions in working hours and transitions to working
from home have been more frequent for women than for men –although
not to the same extent across the three countries. We also demonstrate that
among couples who had been employed at the start of the pandemic, men
express more egalitarian gender-role attitudes if they became unemployed
but their partners remained employed, while women express more
traditional attitudes if they became unemployed and their partners remained
employed. These results indicate that gender-role attitudes might adapt to
the lived realities. The long-term consequences will depend on how both
men and women experience further shifts in their employment relations as
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 31 July 2020; Accepted 9 September 2020
KEYWORDS Gender inequality; gender-role attitudes; unemployment; COVID-19
Lockdown and social distancing measures that many countries intro-
duced to curb the spread of COVID-19 had a large impact on employ-
ment, including reductions in working hours, furloughs and work-
from-home arrangements (Brodeur et al.2020; Coibion et al.2020;
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDer-
ivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distri-
bution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered,
transformed, or built upon in any way.
CONTACT Malte Reichelt email@example.com NYU Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1080/14616696.2020.
Gupta et al.2020). The global public health crisis aﬀected working
families in two profound ways. On the one hand, government sanctions
imposed on mobility and voluntary restrictions of movement for health
and safety reasons forced millions of workers to work from home (Bryn-
jolfsson et al.2020; Yasenov 2020). On the other hand, the economic
downturn led companies to downsize or forced them into bankruptcy,
which for many employees meant working fewer hours or for partial
pay or losing their jobs entirely (Adams-Prassl et al.2020; Béland et al.
2020; Brodeur et al.2020; Coibion et al.2020; Gupta et al.2020). Emer-
ging evidence suggests that women have been aﬀected more severely by
these developments (Adams-Prassl et al.2020; Collins et al.2020;
Cowan 2020; Farre et al.2020; Frodermann et al.2020; Kristal and
Yaish 2020; Montenovo et al.2020).
However, COVID-19 and the lockdown measures may –in addition to
having immediate negative eﬀects for women’s employment –have
broader implications for gender inequality. Unanticipated disruptions
in the labor market have the potential to reorganize the division of
labor at home and, as a result, might cause gender relations to shift at
a societal scale. Previous work that focused on the impact of life events
on the gendered division of labor and gender-role attitudes has shown
that gender roles may shift and adapt to match (voluntarily or involun-
tarily) chosen behavior or circumstances (Smith-Lovin and Tickamyer
1978; Huber and Spitze 1981; Kroska 1997; Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).
In this paper, we investigate two interrelated questions. First, we
analyze how men’s and women’s employment status, their working
hours, and their working arrangements (main place of work) changed
during the pandemic. While previous work has focused on these out-
comes (Adams-Prassl et al.2020; Collins et al.2020; Cowan 2020;
Farre et al.2020;Frodermann et al.2020; Kristal and Yaish 2020; Mon-
tenovo et al.2020), no prior investigation considered and contrasted all
three over the same sample for the countries we analyze. Second, we
focus on people who experienced such transitions in their household to
study the association between these transitions and gender-role attitudes.
To our knowledge, we are the ﬁrst to study this relationship in the context
of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These questions are crucially important, as spells of unemployment,
especially when they are prolonged, make it diﬃcult to reintegrate into
the labor market (Gangl 2004), a diﬃculty that women may disproportio-
nately experience (Alon et al.2020). Additionally, societal norms and
expectations have been shown to shape the gendered division of
2M. REICHELT ET AL.
household labor (van der Lippe et al.2011) and contribute to the gender
pay gap (Vella 1994; Fortin 2005). Therefore, potential shifts in attitudes
toward women’s participation in the labor market may also contribute to
their economic outcomes for years to come. We address these questions
using a representative sample of adults in the U.S., Germany, and Singa-
pore. These countries were selected because of their diﬀerent experiences
with (1) the unfolding of the coronavirus outbreak, (2) governmental
responses, and (3) citizens’concerns about the virus. All of these diﬀer-
ences might shape the experiences of men and women in the labor
market, which provides us with a diverse perspective on our research
2. Theory and hypotheses
2.1. COVID-19 and short-run gender inequality in the labor market
In contrast to previous crises, COVID-19 has had a larger impact on
industries with high proportions of female employment (Alon et al.
2020; ILO 2020). Moreover, school- and daycare closures increased car-
egiving responsibilities. Arguably, these changes increased the burden on
women more than on men (Alon et al.2020;Maet al.2020). In the U.S.,
for example, since the beginning of the pandemic, mothers have reduced
their working hours more than fathers (Collins et al.2020), reinforcing
and further skewing the existing distribution of childcare duties in
most families. We therefore anticipate that women, on average, have
experienced more transitions to working from home (H1a) and have
been more severely aﬀected in terms of their working hours (H1b) and
their employment (H1c). We also recognize that cross-country variation
2.2. The link between labor market transitions and gender-role
While the pandemic’s larger impact on women’s employment may
adversely aﬀect gender equality in the short run, shifts in working
relations may also alter gender-role attitudes and thus hold broader
implications for gender relations. Gender-role attitudes and gender ideol-
ogy in general encompass diverse factors, such as the belief in gendered
separate spheres, individuals’support for a division of paid work and
family responsibilities, or the acceptance of male privilege (Davis and
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 3
Greenstein 2009). These attitudes can thus be understood as multidimen-
sional constructs (Grunow et al.2018). While gender-role attitudes vary
among countries (see Online Appendix for a more detailed explanation
of gender-role attitudes in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore), we
assume that across all contexts, the pandemic’s impact on employment
relations may aﬀect the dimension of gender-role attitudes that captures
attitudes toward women’s involvement in paid work and the division of
Shifts in working relations should be particularly impactful for
working couples (Thompson and Walker 1989) and thus potentially
aﬀect their gender-role attitudes the most. We theorize the impact of
changes in employment relations from the cognitive reinterpretation per-
spective, which holds that people adjust their gender-role attitudes to
accommodate changing family and employment circumstances (Smith-
Lovin and Tickamyer 1978; Huber and Spitze 1981; Kroska 1997). In
brief, this framework states that both men and women are inﬂuenced
by their lived experience and shift their gender-role attitudes toward
their own circumstance (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).
underlying mechanism discussed by prior work is the division of house-
hold labor that impacts gender-role attitudes (Corrigall and Konrad
2007), but other mechanisms –such as diﬀerential psychological reac-
tions to non-employment –also play a role (Forret et al.2010; Özcan
et al.2010; Schmitt 2012). While these alternatives hold promise for
better understanding longer-term change, we focus on changes in
employment relations that immediately impact families by making
those who are impacted more available for household labor. This
immediate ‘shock’may thus shape gender-role attitudes in ways that
match the new lived realities.
Note that this framework is closely aligned with the predictions of cognitive dissonance theory, namely,
that personal experiences promote attitudinal change, especially when dissonant cognitions based on
one’s own attitudes and behavior arise. Prior work speculates that behaviors are less malleable, while
attitudes adapt more easily (Schober 2012). We are considering ‘shocks’to behavior, speciﬁcally,
changes in men’s and women’s involvement in household labor and child care when applicable
(unmeasured), and anticipate these to be associated with post-behavior change in attitudes, which
we do measure (although we do not measure these attitudes prior to the change in employment
relations or working arrangements). Thus, we capture the association between the change in avail-
ability of men and women for household labor and their attitudes post-change as outlined here.
Both cognitive dissonance theory and the cognitive reinterpretation perspective would predict an
adaptation of gender-role attitudes as a response to changes in housework while assuming
diﬀerent psychological mechanisms (i.e. resolving a cognitive dissonance vs. adapting attitudes to
behavior more generally).
4M. REICHELT ET AL.
2.3. Did COVID-19 change the division of household labor?
COVID-19 has indeed changed couples’experiences with employment
outside the household and the division of labor at home. Bujard et al.
(2020), for example, ﬁnd that both men and women increased their
time spent on housework and that women did not engage signiﬁcantly
more in housework than men as a response to lockdown measures.
Accordingly, time allocation for childcare has become more equal
during COVID-19 when men are working from home or have lost
their jobs (Sevilla and Smith 2020). However, Andrew et al.(2020) also
show that mothers who have stopped working for pay do far more dom-
estic work than fathers in the equivalent situation. In a similar vein, Hank
and Steinbach (2020)ﬁnd that more women now take on the primary
role of housework and childcare in the German context, while men are
increasingly contributing as well. These ﬁndings support our theoretical
assumption that time spent at home is associated with increased house-
work for both men and women. Whether or not these developments lead
to more or less egalitarian gender-role attitudes will depend on (1)
whether women’sormen’s employment relations are more aﬀected
and (2) how these transitions (and the respective changes in housework)
relate to gender-role attitudes. Because transitions to unemployment
arguably impose the largest change in availability, we expect these tran-
sitions to have the strongest association with gender-role attitudes,
while reductions in working hours may produce similar, but weaker,
2.4. Hypotheses on COVID-19 and gender-role attitudes
We do not anticipate any change in gender-role attitudes when both or
neither men and women in working couples’transition to unemployment
or reduce working hours, as no change occurs in their relative availability
to perform household tasks. When women stop working or reduce hours,
while men do not experience any change, we anticipate both women
(H2a) and men (H2b) to shift toward more traditional gender-role atti-
tudes as women become more available to participate in a traditional
role. We anticipate that the association is stronger for the person who
experiences the transition. In contrast, when men stop working or
reduce hours, while women’s employment relations remain unchanged,
gender role attitudes of men could shift in either a more egalitarian
(H3a) or a more traditional (H3b) direction. The latter expectation is
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 5
based on previous work showing that males’unemployment could also
increase women’s household labor (Solaz 2005; van der Lippe et al.
2018) and may therefore balance out males’increased availability.
Because of this ambiguity, we likewise anticipate that women’s gender-
role attitudes either do not change or shift toward more traditional
gender-role attitudes when their partners are impacted (H3b). Again,
in this case, we anticipate that the gender-role attitudes of the person
experiencing the transition (in this case men) will react more strongly
than those of the partner.
Around the globe, many workers are currently being asked to telecom-
mute or perform work at home (e.g. Brynjolfsson et al. 2020; Frodermann
et al.2020; Yasenov 2020). In contrast to transitions to unemployment or
a reduction in working hours, working from home does not necessarily
oﬀer the chance to rearrange the division of housework (although it
might in some cases; see Hank and Steinbach 2020). When men tran-
sition to working from home, however, they may be exposed to the pre-
viously ‘invisible’labor of childcare and housework of women (Collins
et al.2020), which might lead to more egalitarian attitudes among men
(H4a). For women’s transition to working from home, we do not
expect shifts in gender-role attitudes (H4b).
We collected a sample of the general population older than 18 years in the
U.S., Germany, and Singapore using the survey ﬁrm YouGov. The data
are representative by age, gender, and education level in all three
countries, while in the U.S., the sample is also representative by race
and region achieved by YouGov’s proprietary advanced matching algor-
ithm (further details on sampling strategy can be found in the Online
Appendix). Respondents were reached via email and completed a
survey online in May and June 2020. From the complete sample of
5,008 respondents, we constructed two analytical samples used in this
article: the ﬁrst contains individuals who reported that they worked
full- or part-time in January 2020, answering retrospective questions
about their employment status (N= 2,594; 49.7% U.S., 21.1% Germany,
29.2% Singapore). The second sample contains couples in which both
the respondent and his or her cohabiting partner worked full- or part-
time in January, answering retrospective questions about themselves
and their partners (N= 1,131; 48.8% U.S., 24.1% Germany, 27.1% Singa-
pore). Further details on the sample construction are reported in the
6M. REICHELT ET AL.
Online Appendix. Our main dependent variables for the questions
regarding the gendered impact of COVID-19 on employment transitions
are threefold. We ﬁrst focus on whether the respondents transitioned to
working from home between January and the time of the interview
(H1a). Second, we assess whether the respondents experienced a signiﬁ-
cant reduction in working hours (H1b), meaning a reduction of at least
10 h per week compared to their working hours in January. Third, we
assess whether the respondents have lost their full- or part-time employ-
ment since January (H1c). Respondents’working arrangement, working
hours, and employment situation in January are collected retrospectively
at the time of the interview in May or June 2020. Our main independent
variable for this analysis is the respondent’s gender.
Our main dependent variable for answering questions regarding
gender-role attitudes (H2a-H4b) is an index measuring gender norms.
The index is composed of the four items taken from the General Social
Survey –speciﬁcally, ‘A working mother can establish just as warm
and secure a relationship with her children’;‘A pre-school child is
likely to suﬀer if his or her mother works’;‘Having a job is the best
way for a woman to be an independent person. Both the husband and
the wife should contribute to the household income’; and ‘A husband’s
job is to earn money; a wife’s job is to look after the home and family’
–assessed on a 5-point Likert-scale of agreement. While gender-role atti-
tudes and gender ideology in general encompass more diverse factors
(Davis and Greenstein 2009) and can be understood as a multidimen-
sional construct (Grunow et al.2018), we are here only focused on the
dimension of gender role-attitudes that captures attitudes toward
women’s and mothers’paid work and the division of labor. The four
items are particularly well suited to capturing this dimension and have
been strategically chosen for the purposes of this study. We concentrate
on these attitudes because we argue that COVID-19 has aﬀected employ-
ment relations and these changes, in turn, aﬀect men’s and women’s
understanding of the division of labor. The items are recoded so that
higher values indicate more egalitarian views, and the index is calculated
as the arithmetic mean of the items. A Cronbach’s alpha value of
=0.65 indicates an acceptable reliability of the index. We calculate
two alternative measures based on these four items employing iterated
principle factor analysis (IPF) and principle component analysis
(PCA). These methods can identify latent factors that capture dis-
tinguishable aspects of gender-role attitudes and are thus well suited to
assessing whether a diﬀerent combination of the four items (or a
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 7
subset) better captures our main construct of interest. A more thorough
description of the factor analyses can be found in the Online Appendix.
Here, we note that pairwise correlations are at least
=0.98 across the
Our main independent variables for H2a-H4b are indicators of
changes in employment relations, reduction in working hours, and tran-
sitioning to working from home for both the respondent and his or her
cohabiting partner. Control variables common to all models include birth
cohort, education, income percentile in January, a variable indicating
whether children below the age of 5 are living in the household,
country ﬁxed eﬀects, and state ﬁxed eﬀects in the U.S. and Germany.
For a more thorough description of all variables, see the Online
To assess whether and to what degree women’s employment outcomes
are more aﬀected by labor market disruptions related to COVID-19,
we ﬁrst compare unconditional mean diﬀerences across groups and use
simple t-tests. We also calculate linear probability models for each of
the three transitions in the respondents’(i) employment outcomes (n):
COVID TRANSni =
mXmi +1mi (1)
where COVID TRANSni represents the three indicators for COVID-19-
related labor market disruptions;
0is a constant, and
diﬀerence in the transition probability by gender; and
relationship of mcontrol variables in vector Xmi mentioned above. In
these models, we are mainly interested in the statistical association
between the gender dummy and the outcomes of interest, which allows
us to assess whether transition probabilities are signiﬁcantly diﬀerent
between men and women.
To estimate how COVID-19-related labor market disruptions in
employment outcomes are associated with gender-role attitudes, we esti-
mate the following linear regressions:
mXmi +1mi, for men and women (2)
where Attitudesgi represents the three diﬀerent indicators for gender ega-
litarian attitudes; β
estimates the linear relationships of the COVID-19-
8M. REICHELT ET AL.
induced employment transitions of men in the household, while β
resents the linear relationships of the COVID-19-induced employment
transitions of women. Additional control variables are indicators for
partners’employment relations in January. We estimate the model sep-
arately for men and women, which allows us to compare the relationships
between employment transitions of the respondent and their partners
with gender-role attitudes. We calculate fully separate models instead
of interacting a gender dummy with all potential transitions because
we assume gender-speciﬁc relationships between some variables and
gender-role attitudes. Across all models, we cluster standard errors on
the state level and use survey weights.
We ﬁrst descriptively assess the gender diﬀerences in having transitioned
to working from home, having experienced a substantial reduction in
weekly working hours (>10), and having become unemployed between
January and the time of the interview. Figure 1 shows that across the
U.S., Germany, and Singapore, women were signiﬁcantly more likely to
experience any of these transitions, conditional on having worked
either full-time or part-time in January, supporting H1a, H1b, and
H1c. The diﬀerences in the likelihood for these transitions are substantial:
Figure 1. COVID-related changes in labor market outcomes.
Notes: 95% conﬁdence intervals, survey weights used, N= 2,589, *p< 0.05; **p< 0.01; ***p< 0.001.
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 9
women have a 7 percentage points higher likelihood of having experi-
enced a transition to working from home, a 5 percentage points higher
likelihood of having reduced their weekly hours by more than 10, and
a 3 percentage points higher likelihood of having transitioned to unem-
ployment since January. Analyzing these transitions separately for the
U.S., Germany, and Singapore reveals remarkable heterogeneities
among the countries. For example, while women’s risk of transitioning
to unemployment is signiﬁcantly higher than men’s only in Germany
and Singapore, the likelihood of reducing working hours or transitioning
to working from home is only signiﬁcantly higher for women in the U.S.
and close to zero and non-signiﬁcant for the other countries. For separate
analyses and a more thorough interpretation of the country-speciﬁc
results, please see the Online Appendix.
To explore the potential reasons behind women’s larger transition
probabilities (H1a-H1c), we evaluate whether gender diﬀerences in
COVID-19-induced transitions are associated with women’s and men’s
employment status before COVID. We then calculate linear probability
models conditional on the control variables outlined above. In Table 1,
models 1, 3, and 5 only control for diﬀerences in the likelihood of tran-
sitions across the three countries, which reveals that gender diﬀerences
are not due to diﬀerences in labor market participation across the
countries. Models 2, 4, and 6 add additional variables, which reveal
that gender diﬀerences in transitions to working from home and in redu-
cing hours mostly hold even after accounting for male-female diﬀerences
in socio-demographics, income, and pre-COVID employment relations.
Gender diﬀerences in transitions to unemployment, however, disappear,
which can mostly be ascribed to women having worked part-time and
having had lower incomes in January, factors associated with a higher
risk of becoming unemployed.
In Figure 2, we assess whether COVID-19-related changes in tran-
sitions to unemployment, reduction in working hours, or transitions to
working from home of respondents and their partners are associated
with men’s and women’s gender-role attitudes. The model includes all
control variables described above and further incorporates measures
for the partner’s employment status in January, which might be associ-
ated with gender egalitarian work attitudes and labor market choices
made prior to the pandemic. The graph shows estimates for the relation-
ship between the respondents’and/or their partners’transitions on all
three measures for gender-role attitudes (based on the arithmetic
mean, iterated principle factor analysis (IPF), and principal component
10 M. REICHELT ET AL.
analysis (PCA)). Bars around the point estimate show the 95% conﬁdence
intervals for each estimate. The full model including all estimates for
control variables can be found in the Online Appendix.
As anticipated, respondents’own transitions to unemployment have
the most pronounced association with gender-role attitudes and are the
Table 1. Linear-probability models: COVID-related changes in labor market outcomes.
Transition to working
Reduction in working
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Female 0.068** 0.101*** 0.057** 0.040+ 0.037* 0.007
(0.02) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02)
Children below the age of 5 in
−0.044 0.047+ −0.061*
(0.04) (0.02) (0.03)
(ref: Lower secondary or less)
Upper secondary education 0.110* 0.032 0.076+
(0.05) (0.04) (0.04)
tertiary education or
0.184** 0.046 0.039
(0.06) (0.04) (0.04)
Bachelor’s or higher 0.331*** 0.052 0.034
(0.05) (0.04) (0.04)
1957–1964 −0.020 −0.076+ −0.060
(0.04) (0.04) (0.04)
1965–1978 0.049 −0.024 −0.034
(0.04) (0.04) (0.03)
1979–1989 0.092* −0.077+ −0.045
(0.05) (0.04) (0.04)
1990–2001 0.096* −0.087* 0.013
(0.05) (0.04) (0.05)
Working arrangement in Jan.
(ref: Mostly working outside)
Mostly working from home −0.081* −0.077+
Partly working from home 0.044 −0.050+ −0.091***
(0.05) (0.03) (0.02)
Employment relation in Jan.
(ref: Full-time employed)
Part-time employed −0.061 0.160** 0.137***
(0.05) (0.06) (0.03)
Germany −0.104*** 0.041+ −0.060* 0.060* −0.169*** 0.123***
(0.03) (0.02) (0.02) (0.03) (0.02) (0.03)
Singapore 0.351*** 0.443*** 0.072** 0.081*** −0.166*** −0.071***
(0.02) (0.01) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02) (0.02)
Income percentiles Yes Yes Yes
State ﬁxed eﬀects Yes Yes Yes
Number of observations 1,857 1,857 1,876 1,876 1,961 1,961
Notes: Survey weights used; + p< 0.01; * p< 0.05; ** p< 0.01; *** p< 0.001
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 11
only factors that are signiﬁcant for both men and women at the 5% level.
The results match the predictions based on theories that argue that
gender-role attitudes adapt to lived realities (Smith-Lovin and Tickamyer
1978; Huber and Spitze 1981; Kroska 1997; Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).
The right-hand side of the graph shows that women’s gender-role atti-
tudes are negatively associated with their own transition to unemploy-
ment, which supports H2a. Their partners’attitudes are not statistically
signiﬁcantly impacted (not supporting H2b). Second, we show that
men’s gender-role attitudes are more egalitarian when they transition
to unemployment, which supports H3a, potentially as a result of their
increased participation in household labor (unmeasured in our study).
Again, their partners’attitudes are not statistically signiﬁcantly impacted
(not supporting H3c).
These associations are non-negligible, showing a 0.3 value diﬀerence
for both men and men for indexes that have a range of approximately
4 (see Table S1 and Figure S2 in the Online Appendix for a description
of the indexes). As these associations hold when controlling for
income, employment arrangements in January, and as transitions to
unemployment are most likely involuntary and resulted from the exogen-
ous shock of the pandemic, we suspect that diﬀerences in gender-role
attitudes emerge as a consequence of transitions to unemployment.
Nonetheless, at this stage, we cannot fully preclude that the causal
relationship is reversed and that women, for example, are more likely
Figure 2. Linear regression: Gender egalitarian attitudes.
Notes: Sample conditioned to respondents who worked full- or part-time in January and whose cohabit-
ing partners worked full- or part-time in January; Survey weights used; Bars signify 95% conﬁdence
12 M. REICHELT ET AL.
to withdraw from the labor market when having more traditional gender-
role attitudes. To interrogate this possibility, we analyzed whether having
children increases women’s likelihood of experiencing this transition and
ﬁnd that the coeﬃcients in the interaction term between female and
having children under the age of 5 is small and not statistically signiﬁcant,
suggesting that childcare responsibilities have not explained much gender
speciﬁc employment disruption so far.
Transitions to working from home are also associated with more ega-
litarian attitudes among men (signiﬁcant at the 5% level for some index
speciﬁcations), supporting H4a. While these results may indicate that
exposure to more housework or the partner’s work has a positive
impact on gender egalitarian views, we cannot preclude that couples
with more egalitarian views select occupations in which transitioning
to working from home is easier. Controlling for education, income,
and employment status in January might not be able to capture potential
unobserved diﬀerences, e.g. if respondents with more egalitarian views
would already work in jobs that allow greater ﬂexibility regarding their
working arrangement. We do not ﬁnd an association for women, sup-
Based on nationally representative samples for the United States,
Germany, and Singapore, we contribute to empirical evidence document-
ing the economic toll of COVID-19 and related government and self-
imposed restrictions on mobility (Brodeur et al.2020). We focused on
the pandemic’sdiﬀerential impact on men and women and found that
women in the labor market are more severely aﬀected than men as
they are more likely to work from home, reduce working hours, and
become unemployed. In particular, the diﬀerences in unemployment
probabilities are largely due to women’s pre-COVID employment situ-
ation (e.g. their higher likelihood of working part-time). After taking
individual and employment characteristics into account, men’s and
women’s unemployment risks do not substantially diﬀer anymore, point-
ing toward potential mechanisms of the arising gender inequalities in the
labor market. The risk of transitioning to working from home or to
reduce working hours is still more pronounced for women, however.
The results indicate that while women’s higher unemployment risks
may be due to their higher share of atypical work arrangements (e.g.
part-time), gender diﬀerences in transitions to working from home and
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 13
reduction in hours are associated with more ﬁne-grained gender diﬀer-
ences in the labor market, e.g. men’s and women’s occupations or indus-
tries, which we could not control for. We documented that national
variations in these relationships exist. Women are more likely than
men to transition to unemployment in Germany and Singapore, while
they are more likely to reduce hours or transition to working from
home in the U.S.
Most importantly, we are the ﬁrst to report how the COVID-19-
related labor market disruption may inﬂuence gender-role attitudes
within couples. We ﬁnd that women’s transitions to unemployment
(when their partners remain in their jobs) are associated with more tra-
ditional gender-role attitudes and that men’s transitions to unemploy-
ment (when their partners remain in their jobs) are associated with
more egalitarian views. The ﬁndings provide preliminary support for the-
ories on cognitive reinterpretation and cognitive dissonance (e.g. Kroska
1997; Schober 2012), which predict that gender-role attitudes adapt to the
lived realities that change due to COVID-19. Our ﬁndings match the
theoretical prediction that when men lose their jobs, given that tra-
ditional gender beliefs mandate men’s full-time employment and
limited participation in household labor, they are entering a nontradi-
tional arrangement, which seems to push their attitudes in an egalitarian
direction. When women lose their jobs, they are losing the role that could
be seen as egalitarian or nontraditional, which pushes their gender-role
attitudes in a more traditional direction. We, however, stress the point
that –in the present study –we do not yet observe this adaption
process and must refer to our future data collection to be able to verify
these theoretical predictions as causal.
The analysis reported here is not without limitations. Perhaps the most
important is that –due to the so-far cross-sectional nature of our data –
we are unable to ultimately reject the possibility of selection into unem-
ployment, especially by women who hold more traditional gender-role
attitudes. However, the fact that COVID-19 has aﬀected women’s
employment relations to a larger degree than men’s and the ﬁnding
that women’s changes in employment relations are associated with
more traditional gender-role attitudes yield important implications for
future gender relations. Employment relations and gender-role attitudes
shape each other and co-evolve. In this regard, shifts toward more tra-
ditional gender role attitudes as a result of a more traditional division
of labor or a more traditional division of labor as a result of traditional
gender role attitudes may both reverse some of the change that had
14 M. REICHELT ET AL.
taken hold over the past few decades toward more egalitarian views and
labor market participation.
While the direct economic impact of employment disruptions will be
long felt, we aimed to draw attention to how these disruptions may
impact especially women’s likelihood of rejoining the labor market.
The data collection that we reported preliminary results from is longi-
tudinal, and we will follow our respondents over the course of the
coming year and into 2021. These longer-term lenses will allow us to
assess the longevity of these associations and provide us with an oppor-
tunity to study potentially gendered patterns of reintegration into the
We thank the editors, two anonymous reviewers, Paula England, and Karl-Ulrich
Mayer for their valuable comments. We thank our collaborators on the larger
project –Maria Abascal, Eugen Dimant, Michele Gelfand, Jinyi Kuang, and Alex
Shpenev –for their comments and suggestions on the survey and Hannah Kasak-
Gliboﬀfor her research support.
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was supported by the NYUAD Center for Interacting Urban Networks
(CITIES), funded by Tamkeen under the NYUAD Research Institute Award
CG001 and by the Swiss Re Institute under the Quantum Cities™initiative.
Notes on contributors
Malte Reichelt is Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at the Div-
ision of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Research
Associate at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg,
Germany. His main areas of research include social stratiﬁcation, labor markets
and work, technological change, and gender inequality.
Kinga Makovi is an Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at the
Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). Her main
areas of research include social networks, experimental and computational
EUROPEAN SOCIETIES 15
Anahit Sargsyan is an Instructor supporting Social Research and Public Policy
program at the Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi
(NYUAD). Her main research interests lie in the intersection of data science, AI,
computational social science with practical applications in education, health and
Malte Reichelt http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6662-3484
Kinga Makovi http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4849-0606
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