As we move into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team of analysts took an in-depth look at its impact on women. In unemployment reports, health surveys and on the frontlines, a consistent pattern emerged: Women — especially women of color — have disproportionately borne a great share of the pandemic’s toll.

Key findings:

  • The unemployment rate for women was consistently higher than that for men throughout most of 2020, reaching up to 16% in April.
  • Women had 51.7% of the share of unemployment claims. In Vermont, that number reached 66.7%.
  • Thirty-three percent of women did not work due to COVID-19-related child care issues compared to 10.2% of men.
  • Nationally, 43.7% of women delayed or had no access to health care compared to 36.8% of men.
  • The rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K since November 2020 was 205.7, compared to 177.8 for men.
  • Women consisted of 64.4% of all frontline workers during the pandemic. Women make up 76.8% of health care workers.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make nearly 20% less than men. In real dollars, that's roughly $195 a week or $10,157 a year less.

Opportunities lost

The first wave of job losses started shortly after lockdowns began. In March 2020, the unemployment rate for women was 4.4%. By April, it was over 16%. And while men also saw a dramatic increase in unemployment, the unemployment rate for women was consistently higher throughout most of 2020.

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The unemployment gap between men and women is even more stark when broken down across state and demographic lines. According to the most recent statistics available, women represented more than 55% of unemployment insurance (UI) claims in 12 states.

Rank State Women’s share of state UI claims
1 Vermont 66.7%
2 Rhode Island 58.9%
3 Mississippi 57.8%
4 Alabama 57.1%
5 Connecticut 57.0%
6 Maryland 57.0%
7 New Hampshire 55.9%
8 New Jersey 55.8%
9 Virginia 55.5%
10 Maine 55.2%
11 Montana 55.1%
12 Pennsylvania 54.5%
13 Delaware 54.4%
14 Hawaii 54.3%
15 South Carolina 54.3%
16 Massachusetts 54.1%
17 Missouri 54.0%
18 Louisiana 53.9%
19 Tennessee 53.9%
20 North Carolina 53.9%
21 Illinois 53.7%
22 Michigan 53.5%
23 Minnesota 53.4%
24 Kentucky 53.1%
25 Georgia 53.0%
26 Florida 52.8%
27 California 52.7%
28 Arkansas 52.6%
29 Iowa 52.6%
30 Indiana 51.9%
31 Wisconsin 51.6%
32 Oregon 51.6%
33 Idaho 51.4%
34 New York 50.9%
35 Nebraska 50.7%
36 Alaska 50.5%
37 South Dakota 50.4%
38 Arizona 50.4%
39 Washington 50.2%
40 New Mexico 49.9%
41 Colorado 49.8%
42 Ohio 49.6%
43 Kansas 48.8%
44 Nevada 47.9%
45 West Virginia 47.7%
46 Utah 47.4%
47 Texas 47.3%
48 Oklahoma 46.7%
49 North Dakota 39.1%
50 Wyoming 33.4%
-- U.S. Total 51.7%

Jobs and women of color

Broad statistics mask the pandemic’s impact on women of color. We found that women who identify as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian had an unemployment rate several points higher than men as a whole.

Year-over-year unemployment rates for women of color
Ethnicity February 2020 unemployment rate February 2021 unemployment rate
Black or African-American women 4.9% 9.9%
Hispanic or Latino women 4.9% 8.5%
Asian women 3.0% 7.9%
Men as a whole 3.2% 6.2%

The tables above tell only half the story, though. According to the National Women’s Law Center, more than 5.3 million women have left the workforce since February 2020. This means only 57% of women are working, the lowest number since 1988.

Jobs and Childcare

Child care is one reason large numbers of women left the workforce. By analyzing Census Bureau Pulse Surveys, we found women were three times more likely to not be working because of child care.

% of people not working due to COVID-19 related child care issues (summer 2020)
Men Women
10.2% 33.0%

Health care toll

The coronavirus’ impact on women’s health goes far beyond the number of COVID-19 cases. Throughout the pandemic, we found women reported higher levels of depression and anxiety, while also having less access to health care.

COVID-19’s impact on women’s health
Indicator Men Women
% of people experiencing anxiety or depression 34.0% 42.0%
% of people with delayed or no access to health care 36.8% 43.7%
COVID-19 cases per 100K (since November 2020) 177.8 205.7

Frontline essentials

From nurses and child care providers to grocery store clerks and pharmacy technicians, women make up a majority (in some cases a vast majority) of essential workers.

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Despite their proportionally larger role in the essential workforce, women are being paid less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make nearly 20% less than men. In real dollars, that's roughly $195 a week, or $10,157 a year, less.

For many women, the issues highlighted above sound all too familiar. For too long, women have struggled with unequal representation, unequal pay and unequal opportunity, the ongoing pandemic only accelerated and exposed those issues even more. Women of color, especially, have lost more jobs and struggled to find health care while also working on the frontlines of this dangerous disease.

Nearly 77% of all health care workers are women. Nationwide, 27 million women are frontline or essential workers — that’s 64% of all workers. The burden of the COVID-19 outbreak has not been felt equally. We must keep this in mind if we want to truly recover. Because the issues many women faced before the pandemic have only become more dire to address.

Methodology:

QuoteWizard’s team of analysts evaluated eight data sets to represent the unequal toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on women compared to men.

The first source on the unemployment rate was compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from March 2020 to February 2021. It represents the unemployment gap between women and men month to month throughout the pandemic.

The second source includes women’s share of state unemployment insurance claims compiled from the Institute for Women's Policy Research. This dataset offered insight into the percentage of unemployment insurance claims as a relative rate compared to men in September 2020.

The third source we evaluated was the National Women’s Law Center, which provided an analysis for the number of Asian women currently unemployed compared to February 2020.

Fourth, we analyzed the U.S. Census to find the percentage of people not working due to COVID-19-related child care issues (summer 2020).

The fifth table we analyzed was the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey on COVID-19’s Impact on Women’s Health. This dataset was segmented into three categories, anxiety and depression, reduced access to health care and COVID-19 case rates.

The pie chart on frontline workers was sourced from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. This depicts the percentage of women in various frontline worker industries compared to men.