Labor force participation of women and mothers, 2008
October 09, 2009
Women's labor force participation is significantly higher today than it was in the 1970s, particularly among women with children.
In 2008, 59.5 percent of women were in the labor force, and this share has been relatively stable over the past several years. Women's labor force participation rate peaked at 60 percent in 1999, following several decades in which women increasingly entered the labor market.
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, none younger) are more likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with younger children (under 6 years of age). Unmarried mothers have higher participation rates than married mothers.
These data are from the Current Population Survey (CPS). To learn more, see Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2009 Edition), BLS Report 1018, September 2009. Data on women with children were collected in the March CPS. The civilian labor force participation rate is the civilian labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population. The civilian labor force comprises all persons classified as employed or unemployed. Employed persons are those who did any work at all as paid civilians; worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm; worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family business; or were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, vacation, bad weather, or another reason. Unemployed persons are those who had no employment during the survey week, were available for work at that time, and made specific efforts to find employment sometime in the prior 4 weeks.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor force participation of women and mothers, 2008 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2009/ted_20091009.htm (visited July 17, 2018).
Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics
Race, Economics, and Social Status
Examines Consumer Expenditure Survey data to explore social and economic factors by race and ethnicity.
African Americans in the U.S. Labor Force
A look at employment and unemployment trends of African Americans from 1972 to 2016 and projected to 2026.
Industry on Tap: Breweries
A look at employment, wages, and job safety in breweries and producer prices for beer.
Differences in Parents’ Time Use between the Summer and the School Year
A look at how parents of school-age children spend their time in the summer and the school year.