Mothers on low incomes left out of pandemic support, say Baker Institute experts


Jeff Falk

Avery Ruxer Franklin

Mothers on low incomes left out of pandemic support, say Baker Institute experts
COVID-19 impact on child development addressed in new brief

HOUSTON — (April 13, 2020) – Government relief packages have failed to provide adequate support for low-income mothers, say experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and that will have a long-term impact on their children.

Women with children are one of the most vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since they’re often the primary parent and they’re more likely to have low-wage jobs, according to the brief authored by Joyce Beebe, fellow in public finance, Quianta Moore, fellow in child health policy, and Zeinab Bakhiet, research associate at the Center for Health and Biosciences. But the experts say that public health measures enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are having unintended consequences on mothers.

Women comprise a significant portion of the workforce in industries that are now deemed essential services, and prior to the outbreak many working mothers were already the main x caregiver for their children. Now these women are balancing work, child care and the health of their family.

The brief covers how the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) modifies the existing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), provides additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and creates the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act in an effort to care for this group. However, the authors argue that working mothers’ young children are the unseen population most affected by the failure of this bill to reduce parental strain.

Young children are the most vulnerable in disasters because they are completely dependent on adults for their emotional, physical, mental and developmental growth, the authors noted. Increased parental stress can impede important interactions that support the child’s growth, both physically and emotionally.

“Without intentional, directed efforts to alleviate the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income women with young children, the fallout will be seen in 10 years when these children are in elementary school or entering middle school: our country will experience a surge of students with academic, behavioral and emotional challenges as a result of the unaddressed trauma that occurred during this time,” the authors wrote.

“COVID-19 will likely impact the U.S. economy for many months to come, but the impediments to the development of young children will be seen for decades,” they added.

To schedule an interview with Beebe, Moore or Bakhiet, contact Avery Franklin, media relations specialist at Rice, at or 713-348-6327. The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available.


Related materials:


Beebe bio:

Moore bio:

Bakhiet bio:

Baker Institute Center for Health and Biosciences:

Baker Institute Center for Public Finance:

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Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks as the No. 2 university-affiliated think tank in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.