NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sharing Time Between Motherhood and Employment

July 9, 2002

A growing number of women unable to find flexible jobs or adequate child care are taking brief periods of time out of the labor force to raise young children. Women from 25 to 45 years of age are now more likely than in the past to indicate staying at home with their children as a phase in life as important as paid employment. Recent labor force trends also suggest that staying at home for more than a few years is not the intention of most women, particularly among college-educated mothers.

  • Recently, labor force participation rates of women with children under 3 years dropped to 57.5 percent from a record 60.9 percent in 1997.
  • In 2001, 73.1 percent of women with children under 18 were in the labor force, up from 66.7 percent in 1990 and 56.6 percent in 1980.
  • The participation rate for married women ages 25 to 64 with four years of college or more has fluctuated between 81 and 83 percent over the last decade, less than 10 points below the level for college-educated men, and up from 74.3 percent and a 23 point gap in 1980.

Surprisingly, the trend shows time spent at work is climbing fastest among women with husbands earning over $80,000 a year-reaching 42.5 percent in 2002 from 40.1 percent in 1996. Among all married women, 65.7 percent held jobs in 2000 with a majority working full-time.

Source: Louis Uchitelle, "Job Track of 'Mommy Track'? Some Do Both, in Phases," New York Times, July 5, 2002.


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