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21st Century Has Fewer Women in U.S. Workforce

June 5, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Los Angeles, CA – Since 2000, the percentage of women participating in the U.S. workforce has declined slightly, reversing more than a half-century of dramatic growth.

The percentage of “prime-age” women, between 24 and 54, working or looking for work peaked at 76.8% in 1999 and fell to 74.3% in 2016, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. Experts blame a combination of declining overall wages, problems finding affordable child care, discrimination, and the disappearance of large categories of jobs. (The share of prime-age men in the workforce peaked at 97.4% in 1953, and is now 88.5%.) The rising cost of child care reduced women’s employment by 5% from 1990 to 2010, a Princeton University researcher estimated last year. Mari Villaluna, a 36-year-old career counselor in San Francisco with a one-year-old child, decided not to return to work last fall, after she was unable to get a state subsidy for child care. Paying for it herself would eat up about $2,500 of her roughly $3,000 in take-home pay. “I really, really wanted to go back to work,” she told the Los Angeles Times, but “no matter what job I get, we are going to be in the negative, so I might as well take care of her myself.” Read more

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