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June 1994, Vol. 117, No. 6
Howard V. Hayghe and Suzanne M. Bianchi
M arried mothers form a significant segment of the female work force. Likewise, the families of these working mothers account for a sizable share of all families, and contain almost half of the Nation's children.1 Consequently, married mothers' market work (or work for pay or profit) plays a role in the lives of sizable numbers of families and children.
Over the past two decades, the proportions of mothers (living with their husbands) who were in the labor force rose dramatically. By 1992, two-thirds of all married mothers were working or looking for work, including more than half of those with children under age 6. These familiar statistics (labor force participation rates) present only a snapshot-taken at a very specific point in time-of married mothers as workers. They do not indicate how much time these mothers spend engaged in market work over any sort of extended period. Using only the participation rate data, therefore, makes it difficult to determine the significance of married mothers' employment with regard, not only to family life, but also to women's labor force trends as a whole.
To understand more clearly how married mothers affect female labor force participation patterns overall, as well as the family/work interface, analysts need to examine measures of the amount of time these mothers spend at work and how that has changed over the years. The amount of time married mothers spend working for pay affects, not only their families and children, but also the mothers' personal economic outcomes.2 In addition, the labor market experience of today's married mothers may influence the educational and career choices of their daughters, as well as the marriage and family formation patterns of the younger generation.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 1994 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 As of March 1993, about 30 percent of the approximately 57.6 million women labor force participants are married mothers, and their families make up about one-fourth of the total 68.8 million U.S. families. By contrast, unmarried mothers (widowed, divorced, separated, or never-married) make up only 10 percent of female labor force participants and their families accounted for just 8 percent of all families.
2 Interruptions, for whatever reason, to market work can have an effect, not only on current earnings, but also future earnings and benefits. For a discussion of this subject, see, Shirley P. Burggraf, "How should the costs of child rearing be distributed?" paper presented at the 1992 annual meeting of the Southern Economics Association in Washington, D.C.
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