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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Women’s labor force participation: a long term trend

My internal narrative about married women participating in the labor force was wrong. I had thought it was high in the 1930s (when anyone who could find a job would take one) and early 1940s (think Rosie the Riveter, keeping the factories working while the men fought the war), and then declined in the 1950s and 1960s until the feminist movement.

But that’s not the actual narrative. Here’s the graph, using US decennial census data.


(graph is from Evan Roberts presentation).Labor force participation by married white women shows a pretty steady growth rate since 1900, which each decade showing at least a small increase. Looking at the numbers in 2000, I’m struck by the similarity in the numbers between all four groups – with the lowest rate among single black women, who had the highest rates of participation a hundred years earlier.