Where Are The Women?

Where Are The Women?

Over the past 15 years, labor market participation for U.S. women in their prime working years has been on a steady decline, reversing the growth trend of the previous 20 years.

In this Working Moms Mean Business episode, BBVA Compass economist Amanda Augustine, co-author of a recent study analyzing the shift, explains her findings, why this trend matters, and what can be done to reverse it. Some of the study’s notable points:

  • In 2015, the United States was the only Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member country where female labor force participation lagged 2005 and 1995 levels.
  • Child care costs and marital status have huge impacts on whether women work. Married mothers with a household income of less than $50,000 were more likely to “opt out” and stay home full time with children, while those with a household income of up to $200,000 were more likely to work, because they were, in part, more likely to be able to afford child care.
  • Earlier media reports of highly educated and affluent women opting out of the work force en masse were grossly exaggerated, research shows.
  • White mothers of young children are more likely to stop working or scale back because they tend to be in positions where more flexible schedules can be negotiated.
  • Black mothers with young children have the lowest income of the races studied in the report, and also the highest workforce participation rate. This is explained, in part, by the fact that black mothers, as well as Asian mothers, had the highest likelihood of an older person (such as a grandparent available for babysitting) also living in the home.
  • Augustine says the answer includes borrowing policies from countries like Denmark and Sweden, which have some of the highest female workforce participation rates, and promoting government and corporate programs that support working families with paid parental leave and subsidized child care.
  • Policies that allow women to re-enter the workforce in significant numbers, the report suggests, would improve wages and the economy for everyone.
  • Black mothers with young children have the lowest income of the races studied in the report, and also the highest workforce participation rate. This is explained, in part, by the fact that black mothers, as well as Asian mothers, had the highest likelihood of an older person (such as a grandparent available for babysitting) also living in the home.
  • Augustine says the answer includes borrowing policies from countries like Denmark and Sweden, which have some of the highest female workforce participation rates, and promoting government and corporate programs that support working families with paid parental leave and subsidized child care.
  • Policies that allow women to re-enter the workforce in significant numbers, the report suggests, would improve wages and the economy for everyone.


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    Articles by Emma Johnson

    About the Series

    @johnsonemma

    While a majority of Americans believe that children fare better when their mothers stay home full-time, most American moms work – and research suggests having a working mom benefits children. Still, moms often experience guilt when choosing a career and motherhood. The Working Moms Mean Business series dives into the research, insights and success stories of this complex issue.