Related BLS programs | Related articles
February 2009, Vol. 132, No. 2
The changing impact of marriage and children on women’s labor force participation
This article, originally posted to the BLS Web site on February 27, 2009, was revised and reposted on March 25, 2009. The revisions were due to calculational error and involved chiefly chart 2 and related text.
Saul D. Hoffman
Tabulations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the steady increase in U.S. women’s labor force participation that characterized the post-World War II period has largely subsided. For most groups of women (all women, married women, and women with children), the trend line in the labor force participation rate flattened out in the early- to mid-1990s after nearly four dec-ades of steady increases.1 But as with many aggregate trends, substantial complexity and controversy lie just beneath the surface. Recent work by Heather Boushey and by Sharon R. Cohany and Emy Sok suggests two apparently inconsistent trends.2 On the one hand, responding to anecdotal evidence in the popular press about a declining commitment to work on the part of women with children, Boushey showed that the negative impact of children on work by women aged 25–44 years declined, rather than increased, in the two decades between 1984 and 2004. On the other hand, Cohany and Sok showed that the labor force participation rate of married women with children, and especially married women with very young children, declined between 1997 and 2005, which implies that the negative impact of children on work has increased, at least for this group of women.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 2009 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (282K)
1 See Sharon R. Cohany and Emy Sok, “Trends in labor force participation of married mothers with infants,” Monthly Labor Review, February 2007, pp. 9–16; and Abraham Mosisa and Steven Hipple, “Trends in labor force participation in the United States,” Monthly Labor Review, October 2006, pp. 35–57.
2 Heather Boushey, “Are Women Opting Out? Debunking the Myth,” briefing paper (Washington, DC, Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 2005); Cohany and Sok, “Trends in labor force participation.”
Related BLS programs
Current Population Survey (Labor Force Statistics)
Trends in labor force participation in the United States.—Oct. 2006.
Trends in labor force participation of married mothers of infants.—Feb. 2007.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers