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Labor force participation declines for mothers and fathers in 2020

April 27, 2021

The labor force participation rate for mothers with children under the age of 18 was 71.2 percent in 2020, down from 72.3 percent in 2019. The participation rate for fathers with children under the age of 18, at 92.3 percent in 2020, also declined from the rate in 2019 (93.3 percent). This decline in labor force participation among parents, especially mothers, likely reflects not only pandemic-related job losses, but also the shift of many schools to distance learning and the temporary closure of many daycare facilities during the pandemic.

Labor force participation rates of mothers and fathers, 2019 and 2020
Parent 2019 2020

Mothers

72.3% 71.2%

Fathers

93.3 92.3

In 2020, mothers of older children remained more likely to participate in the labor force than mothers with younger children. The participation rate for mothers with children under the age of 6, at 65.8 percent, was lower than that of mothers whose youngest child was age 6 to 17, at 75.4 percent. By comparison, fathers with children under age 6 were more likely to participate in the labor force than those whose youngest child was age 6 to 17 (93.4 percent versus 91.4 percent).

Labor force participation rates of mothers and fathers, by age of youngest child, 2019 and 2020
Parent 2019 2020

Mothers with youngest child age 6 to 17

76.8% 75.4%

Mothers with children under age 6

66.4 65.8

Fathers with youngest child age 6 to 17

92.0 91.4

Fathers with children under age 6

95.0 93.4

These data are from the Current Population Survey. For more information, see "Employment Characteristics of Families — 2020." Parents are people with own children who are under age 18 living in the household. Own children are sons, daughters, step-children, or adopted children. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, other related or unrelated children, and children not living in the household.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor force participation declines for mothers and fathers in 2020 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/labor-force-participation-declines-for-mothers-and-fathers-in-2020.htm (visited October 18, 2021).

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