The coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. response to it will likely affect families, work lives, relationships and gender roles for years, according to a report released Thursday which included work by UCLA researchers.
The report was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and foresees enduring psychological fallout from the crisis, even among those who haven’t been infected.
The group analyzed 90 research studies to evaluate Americans’ reaction to the pandemic and predict the pandemic’s aftermath.
The authors predict:
- A decrease in planned pregnancies in “a disease-ridden world,” a drop in birthrates, and many couples postponing marriage;
- Single people will be less likely to start new relationships, and women who can afford to stay single will likely stay on their own longer;
- Women with children at home during the pandemic will be less available for paying work, as they’re spending more time on child care and schooling, and they may have to depend on male partners to make money. UCLA professor of psychology and communication studies Martie Haselton said this will push the U.S. toward socially conservative gender norms and may create “a backslide in gender equality.”
- The U.S. is not becoming a more kind, empathetic or compassionate country due to the pandemic, which is not like past crises that bring people closer.
The researchers note Americans’ value for individuality and ability to challenge authority, which Benjamin Seitz, a UCLA psychology doctoral student, said does not mix well during a pandemic.
“The psychological, social and societal consequences of COVID-19 will be very long-lasting,” Haselton said. “The longer COVID-19 continues, the more entrenched these changes are likely to be.”
Researchers expect that populations of some nations will shrink below replacement level, due to plummeting marriage rates and many people postponing having families.
“These birthrate drops, in turn, can have cascading social and economic consequences, affecting job opportunities, straining the ability of countries to provide a safety net for their aging populations and potentially leading to global economic contraction,” according to the report.
Researchers have found that women before the pandemic were already more stressed about having family and job responsibilities before than men, and in medicine and other sciences, women are publishing less research than they did a year ago, according to Haselton. Men, on the other hand, are increasingly productive.
Haselton and the other researchers who produced the report believe the pandemic may create less tolerance for legal abortion and rights for people who do not align with traditional gender roles. Some women may also choose to sexualize themselves to compete with other women for desirable men, Haselton said.
The report was co-authored by:
— Steven Pinker of Harvard University.
— bestselling author Sam Harris.
— Barbara Natterson-Horowitz of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
— Paul Bloom of Yale University.
— Athena Aktipis of Arizona State University.
— David Buss of the University of Texas.
— Joe Alcock of the University of New Mexico.
— Michele Gelfand of the University of Maryland.
— David Sloan Wilson of the State University of New York at Binghamton.