Study: Working Parents Work Longer Hours Than Non-Parents—Maybe They're Scared of Losing Their Jobs

New data shows working parents are working longer hours and are more afraid to lose their jobs than their non-parent peers. It's not hard to connect the dots here.

Father working at home with baby

Javier Pardina / Stocksy

Jobs numbers looked good in February. But if, like me, you've logged into LinkedIn recently, you know mass layoffs—sometimes via email (hey, Google)—have been normalized since late last year. Maybe it's just that I've spent my career in media and did a three-year stint in tech, the two industries seemingly most impacted by layoffs this year. But there's also talk of a looming recession.

It's enough to make anyone nervous. But when tiny humans depend on you for necessities, the stakes feel so much higher. (Especially because pandemic-era SNAP benefits also expired on March 1, 2023. Cool, cool.)

New data from human resources tech company Justworks and Harris Poll demonstrates the impact the current economic strife is having on parents. The Recession Watch and Workplace Snapshot survey showed nearly half (48%) of parents with children under 18 are worried about losing their jobs—compared to 38% of non-parents. Unless you're new here, you know that benefits like health insurance are usually tied to your job in the U.S. Not surprisingly, 54% of parents are concerned about a reduction in benefits/perks, compared to 38% of non-parents.

But here's the kicker: 40% of parents with children under 18 are working longer hours. That's compared to 31% of employees without children under 18, according to the survey.

Now, correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation. But it's not hard to connect the dots here. Parents are worried that they will lose their jobs—the thing that keeps a roof over their heads, food in their children's bellies, and a health insurance card in their wallets so they can take their kids to the doctor.

To over-compensate and prove their worth, they're working longer hours.

I feel this. I'm a freelancer, so the benefits thing doesn't really apply. But I cannot tell you the number of times that I have had a full plate and, instead of declining work, said yes. I mean, literally, there have been times when I was saying "No" out loud as I responded to an email offering an assignment with, "Yes, sounds great! Thank you!"

Please don't get me wrong. I'm thankful for the work, especially when my bi-weekly LinkedIn doom scrolls show how hard others have it right now. And I don't blame editors for asking—I appreciate it. But this entire situation is an indictment of a culture and society that ties way too much of our livelihoods and identities to employment. It allows employers to prey on people. Now, instead of having dinner with our children, we're slogging past their bedtimes, ensuring they have something to eat.

It's actually a reversal from the common tropes about parents, particularly mothers. This data had me thinking back to this New York Times article from September 2020. When parents got six weeks off at Salesforce, non-parents got bitter, saying the policy implied parents' needs were more important. (Salesforce is among the companies currently laying off employees in droves.) It also reminds me of my time in tech. When HR held meetings with employees to discuss changing parental leave policies to offer new parents more time with their newborns, serious people asked if that meant they could get "paw-ternity" time with their new pets.

Fun fact: Six weeks "off" to care for a child isn't spent journaling and getting facials. It is spent literally focusing on keeping another human being alive. (And yes, that's more challenging and warrants more consideration than keeping your indoor plant garden or cat alive—and I love my cat. Sorry, not sorry.) These new numbers buck the idea that parents are "lazy," "unreliable," "entitled," or whatever else you used on Slack to describe us when we needed to log off at 6:30 p.m. during pandemic childcare-less days in 2020.

Research shows Black women historically have it harder (shocking, I know), often working in more hazardous conditions for less pay. And when the economy slows down, Black women are more likely to lose hours. Black mothers are paid $0.52 for every dollar a White dad makes, compared to White women, who get $0.75 (still not fair, but the hill isn't as steep).

None of this is good for children. Obviously, they need to be able to eat and have a place to sleep. I'm not going to bother with toxic positivity about "being happy you have a roof over your head and food on your table." These things should be considered rights.

Family meals are associated with better physical and mental health outcomes in children. The U.S. Department of Education says education starts at home and stresses the importance of parental involvement. What is the government doing besides letting SNAP benefits expire?

I honestly don't know what the answer to all of this is. But the current situation continues to feel more unsustainable by the minute and it's only going to get more challenging as the economy does whatever it's going to do—and it doesn't really feel like anyone cares. Executives and corporations are probably enjoying the opportunity to profit off of our 3 a.m. thoughts of impending doom. And our kids, who politicians often use as props when discussing our future, are collateral damage.

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Harris Poll/Justworks. Recession Watch and Workplace Behavior Snapshot. January 19-23, 2023

  2. Dill J, Duffy M. Structural Racism And Black Women’s Employment In The US Health Care Sector. Health Affairs. 2022

  3. Economic Policy Institute. Working harder or finding it harder to work: Demographic trends in annual work hours show an increasingly fractured workforce. February 22, 2018

  4. McKinsey/ Women in the Workplace 2022. October 18, 2022

  5. Harrison ME, Norris ML, Obeid N, Fu M, Weinstangel H, Sampson M. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. Can Fam Physician. 2015

  6. U.S. Department of Education. Parental Involvement as a Important Factor for Successful Education. 2017

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