COVID-19 and the economy

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m., Polis: Center for Politics and the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke Sanford held a Zoom discussion on how COVID-19 has affected the economy through gig workers and working parents. Keynote speakers included Dr. Lisa Gennetian, professor of early learning policy studies, and Dr. Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of public policy in the Sanford School.


The event started with Dr. Johnson discussing the effects on workers who have lost their jobs and workers who have managed to keep their jobs. The advanced unemployment rate has been increasingly strenuous on the job market following the spread of COVID-19. Johnson states that the recovery since the beginning of the pandemic has been a K-shaped recovery meaning that workers who already established a high income before the pandemic had their salary take a dip then wholly recovered. Simultaneously, workers who have already established a relatively low income before the pandemic have faced a catastrophic job loss that has not entirely recovered. Johnson called this an “unequal recession and recovery on many margins.”

Following Johnson was Dr. Gennetian, who discussed COVID-19 and the economy revolving around the focus on families. Gennetian starts off her discussion on the prevalence of work in families, focusing on parents as providers.

“We cannot fully understand the impact of the pandemic when it started in 2020 until or unless we are ready to position it relative to the starting state,” Gennetain said about seeing the effects of the pandemic since its start.


Job loss has been steep in homes with children since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1 in 5 children experiencing the effects of job loss of an adult. Gennetian uses her current research on COVID-19 and the economy to state that over 52 million households with children have experienced a job loss or hourly/wage cuts from the pandemic. She also considers that no systems are in place to protect children in families under wage loss conditions due to COVID-19.

Both speakers spoke on the lack of resources involved in raising job and/or wage availability during the pandemic. Specifically, for families who are getting hit hard by the decrease in job availability. Johnson focuses on unemployment insurance such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act as a way of substituting wages for those suffering from job loss. Johnson states that many workers have not been able to gain access to unemployment insurance. He backs this statement with the statistic that only one in four workers who lost their job during the pandemic have access to unemployment insurance. According to Johnson, this is not a new issue that has come up with unemployment in the United States and has been prevalent far before the arrival of COVID-19.

To conclude, the Polis’s meeting co-sponsored by the Center for Politics and the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke Sanford School helped to engage civil involvement surrounding the discussion of COVID-19 effects on the economy. Ending the meeting was a question panel open to viewers to advance the discourse on the research and ideas provided by Dr. Lisa Gennetian and Dr. Matthew Johnson.

To learn more about the Center for Politics at Duke University, follow the link to their homepage to view future events.