Labor force participation rates among mothers

May 07, 2010

Labor force participation among women with children is significantly higher today than it was in the 1970s.

Labor force participation rate of mothers, by age of youngest child, March 1975–March 2008
[Chart data]

From March 1975 to March 2000, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under age 18 rose from 47 percent to a peak of 73 percent. By 2004, the participation rate for mothers had receded to 71 percent, where it remained through 2008.

In general, mothers with older children (6 to 17 years of age) are more likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with younger children (under 6 years of age). In 2008, 77.5 percent of mothers with older children were in the labor force, compared with 63.6 percent of mothers with younger children.

Unmarried mothers have higher participation rates than married mothers. In 2008, 76 percent of unmarried mothers were in the labor force, compared with 69 percent of married mothers.

These data are from Current Population Survey. To learn more, see, "Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2009 Edition)," Report 1018, September 2009. The labor force participation rate is the share of the population 16 years and older working or seeking work.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor force participation rates among mothers on the Internet at (visited September 27, 2016).


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