NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 17, 2005

The number of women entering the American workforce has risen in recent decades, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1970, about 43 percent of women aged 16 or older worked; the number rose steadily until stabilizing around 60 percent in 1999, where it has hovered since.

The number of self-employed women and women entrepreneurs is also on the rise.

  • Between 1976-2004, the percentage of women who were self-employed increased 1.2 percentage points while the number of self-employed men fell.
  • According to the Center for Women?s Business Research, the estimated growth rate in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2004 was nearly twice that of all firms (17 vs. 9 percent), employment expanded at twice the rate of all firms (24 vs. 12 percent), and estimated revenues kept pace with all firms (39 vs. 34 percent).

In addition to joining the workforce, women have made significant inroads into higher paying careers, thus increasing the contribution of working wives to family income.

  • Both husband and wife had earnings from work in 58 percent of married-couple families in 2003, compared with 44 percent in 1967.
  • In 1973, wives? earnings accounted for 26 percent of their families? income; by 2003, that share had grown to 35 percent.
  • The proportion of wives earning more than their husbands also grew; in 1987, 18 percent of working wives whose husbands also worked earned more than their spouses; in 2003, it had grown to 25 percent.

Source: ?Women in the Labor Force: A Databook,? Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2005.

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