Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers did a disproportionate share of child care, which negatively impacted their careers, relationships, and mental health. What do mothers say about these unequal arrangements? They generally describe their disproportionate share of pandemic parenting as justified, even when these arrangements negatively impacted them, according to a study by IU researchers Jessica Calarco, Emily Meanwell, Elizabeth Anderson, and Amelia Knopf. Through interviews and surveys with 55 mothers (and 14 fathers) in different-sex, pre-pandemic, dual-earner couples, the researchers found that most mothers described their larger share of caregiving as “natural” and “practical." These views reflected traditional gender stereotypes, gender pay gaps between mothers and fathers, and gender inequalities in who was able to work from home, and they allowed couples to rely on mothers by default rather than through active negotiation. As a result, many mothers did not feel entitled to seek support with child care from fathers or nonparental caregivers and experienced guilt if they did so. The researchers say their findings help explain why many mothers have not reentered the workforce, even as schools reopened; why fathers’ involvement at home waned as the pandemic progressed; and why the pandemic has led to growing preferences for unequal divisions of domestic and paid labor. The findings also have policy implications, according to the researchers. If couples--especially mothers--perceive traditional pandemic parenting arrangements as justified or even desirable, they may not advocate for policies that would ease the burden on mothers and make it easier for couples to establish more egalitarian divisions of care. In other words, there could be potential pushback against proposed policy changes from those who would benefit most.
In other news, as Congress debates billions of dollars in new infrastructure investments, advocates are touting many clean energy projects. But those ideas are not always accepted in communities, where some revert to a “not in my back yard” mentality. However, IU environmental policy experts Sanya Carley and David Konisky have found that generally, when someone supports an energy infrastructure project, they do not oppose the same type of project near their home. On the contrary, in surveys of over 16,000 people, including large numbers living near power plants, pipelines and transmission lines, Carley and Konisky found no statistical evidence of the not in my backyard mentality. And when projects do meet resistance, researchers say, that resistance reflects a rational reaction to how a new infrastructure project affects residents’ property values or disrupts a local landscape or community. Carley and Konisky also find that people are more favorable toward cleaner energy technology infrastructure, such as solar or wind farms, than they are toward fossil fuel-based infrastructure, such as natural gas power plants or oil and natural gas pipelines. In other words, Americans are more receptive in general to energy sources they perceive as cheap and clean. The researchers say that creating a 100% clean-energy economy and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as President Joe Biden has proposed, will require massive deployment of cleaner energy sources, plus upgraded and expanded distribution and storage systems. Some of these projects will spark local opposition, making it imperative for government agencies and energy companies to work with communities to build trust and open dialogue. The most effective way to address opposition, Carley and Konisky say, is through genuinely addressing concerns about how energy projects affect the places where they are built.