This week’s summary highlights a few burning questions that have persisted throughout the pandemic – how COVID-19 has affected (1) employment, especially that of parents of school-age children, (2) students’ mental health and wellbeing, and (3) college life.
How is the economy, and particularly the labor market, doing?
Previous posts have focused on how impactful the pandemic, and associated disruptions to childcare and schooling, has been for parental employment. The latest jobs report for March included some hopeful signs, and some continuing challenges in the U.S. labor market. The economy added over 900,000 jobs, and unemployment crept down to 6%. The number of unemployed people remains nearly 6 million higher than pre-pandemic levels (in February 2020), when the unemployment rate was 3.5%.
The President’s Council of Economic Advisers estimates that we could be back to pre-pandemic employment by the end of this year if this faster pace of job growth continues. Women’s employment losses also narrowed in March to look more like what is happening for men for the first time since March 2020. Since the start of the pandemic, women’s jobs—and particularly mothers of school-age children—have been hit hardest.
How are teens faring during the ongoing disruptions caused by the pandemic?
Recent survey evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and schooling modifications, including online learning, have negatively affected teens’ mental health and their relationships. The survey captures sentiment from a nationally representative sample of teens aged 13 to 17 (n=1,000) in late February 2021. Some key findings include:
- While the majority of teens (72%) still express concern about the pandemic, overall concern has declined since August 2020 (81%).
- Many teens report feelings of stress, boredom, tiredness, and lack of motivation for school.
- Teenage students attending school in-person indicate that it is going better than those who are in hybrid settings or those who are fully remote.
- In-person students report that their schools are enforcing mask-wearing well, but that they could do more in their enforcement of other COVID guidelines.
- Remote students report that they are heavily reliant on their phones and social media platforms to connect with their peers while in-person students use a wider variety of methods to connect with their peers.
What will the return to college campuses look like in Fall 2021?
Much of what the return to school for the academic year 2021–22 will look like is still to be determined, but colleges and universities are beginning to issue some guidance. In the past week, several institutions indicated that they will require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enroll in the fall. While Rutgers University in New Jersey was the first to announce a vaccine mandate, others have quickly joined the list, including the University of Notre Dame, Duke University, and Brown University. Other institutions are considering policies short of a mandate, such as requiring the vaccine for residence in university housing, or continuing surveillance testing protocols (and other COVID-19 precautions) for students who do not provide proof of vaccination. The legal context for such a mandate varies across states and with institutional type and precedent.