Women In The Labor Force: A Databook

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS Report 1049, May 2014

Women’s participation in labor force activities has greatly expanded since the end of World War II. Immediately following the war, less than one-third of women were in the labor force. However, women soon began to participate in greater numbers, and their labor force participation rose rapidly from the 1960s through the 1980s before slowing in the 1990s. By 1999, women reached the peak of their labor force participation, 60 percent. Since then, however, labor force participation among women has declined. Nonetheless, women’s labor force participation remains relatively high by historical standards, particularly among women with children, and a large share of women work full time and year round. In addition, women have increasingly attained higher levels of education: among women ages 25 to 64 who are in the labor force, the proportion with a college degree more than tripled from 1970 to 2012. Women’s earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings also have grown over time. In 1979, women working full time earned 62 percent of what men earned; in 2012, women’s earnings were 81 percent of men’s. This report presents historical and recent labor force and earnings data for women and men from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unless otherwise noted, data are annual averages from the CPS.