Stevenson considers how COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily lives

June 21, 2021

With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted across the country, what does the "other side" of the pandemic look like? Many realize that everything will not revert to pre-pandemic "normal." Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics, has recently pointed out a few areas of daily life she believes will be impacted permanently.

"(Our personal and work lives) are intricately intertwined and a lot of people prior to the pandemic used to try to put up more solid divisions between work and family life, and pretend that they weren’t intertwined," she explained to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "I have always felt that they were really intertwined because our personal lives put constraints on our work, and our work puts constraints on our personal lives, and the challenge is how to make the best decisions we can given all those constraints."

Stevenson believes the pandemic has forced people to evaluate what they're doing with their lives. She foresees large numbers of workers moving into different sectors.

“We all will have various times in our life where we’ll stop and say, ‘Whoa — am I going in the right direction? Is this the right occupation for me? Should I do something differently?’” Stevenson told The New York Times. “But I can’t think of any other time when it’s been a correlated shock across the entire country, where we’ve all been faced — no, forced — to ask questions.”

Those people who are questioning their jobs and looking for new ones are contributing to the slow economic recovery, according to Stevenson.

"People have had a little more space to ask themselves, 'Is this really what I want to be doing?'" she explained to Axios. "Hopefully we’ll see a lot more people in 2022 employed and stable because they're in jobs they actually like."

Potential employees finding jobs that match up to their skill set takes time, which is contributing to a labor shortage in certain industries right now, she explained.

"It’s not even that they’re sitting at home reconsidering, it’s that it takes time to actually apply for jobs. I’ve heard from a lot of workers who are applying for jobs right now," Stevenson said on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. "They’re just trying to find a job that’s a good fit for their skill set, employers are trying to find workers who are a good fit for them. All these people meeting, and figuring each other out and getting hired, it just takes time."

Another aspect of life that Stevenson predicts will change: free time and leisure activities. They have been altered to fit the pandemic, prompting her to question if people will return to their normal activities.

"Lots of people have a habit like, 'I go out to dinner every Friday night,'" Stevenson told Axios. "Those habits got smashed. Now, do you go back to having dinner out every Friday night or do you keep the replacement plan that you came up with at home? It’s a hard time for forecasting. What we normally do with forecasting is just assume preferences are going to be stable. But we just had the biggest shock to preferences we’ve ever seen."

Read and watch the news items featuring Stevenson below: