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March 1990, Vol. 113, No. 3
Family members in the work force
Howard V. Hayghe
As a social and economic institution, the American family has undergone some profound changes in recent decades. One of the most talked about changes has been the substantial increase since the 1940's in married-couple families in which both spouses are in the labor force, or "dual-worker families." As the number of dual-worker couples increased, the number of families in which only the husband is in the labor force, or "traditional families," dwindled. Simultaneously, the number of unmarried men and women in the labor force who maintained families grew, as divorce and separation became increasingly common. But, perhaps the most overlooked development has been the steady increase in the proportion of families in which neither the husband nor the person maintaining the household is in the labor force, or other families.
The traditional family group is now far from being in the majority. Yet, no other group has taken its place. Instead, the composition of the family has become increasingly diverse, as the labor force roles of members have changed, and the proportions of "other families" and families maintained by divorced, widowed, separated, or single persons have grown. In other words, there is no longer a "typical" family.
This article traces the changing labor force characteristics of families over the years since the Monthly Labor Review began publication. It looks back to the pre-World War II era to provide a picture of family labor force characteristics during the early decades of this century, and traces the broad trends from 1940 to the present, focusing on the current situation.
The analysis is based on data from a variety of sources. Information on pre-1940 developments is drawn from studies based on the decennial censuses, as well as some other smaller studies. Data for the post-1940 period are from the decennial censuses and the Current Population Survey.1
This excerpt is from an article published in the March 1990 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.
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1 The Current Population Survey is a monthly survey of (currently) about 60,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to obtain statistics on the employment status of the population. Information collected in March of each year is specially processed to produce employment estimates by family status and characteristics.
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