Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2006. Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 8. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children Under 18

08/30/2006

Figure WORK 8. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children under 18: 1975-2004

Figure WORK 8. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children under 18: 1975-2004

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1976-2005.


  • The labor force participation rate for all women with children under 18 years of age decreased between 2003 and 2004. While the employment to population ratio also decreased for married and never-married mothers during this time period, the ratio for divorced, separated or widowed mothers increased slightly, as shown in Table WORK 8.
  • Since 1992, the labor force participation rate of never-married mothers with children under 18 has increased dramatically from 53 percent to 73 percent. Since 1998, the participation rate for never-married mothers has exceeded the rate for married mothers. Similarly, the employment to population ratio for never-married mothers increased from 43 percent in 1992 to 63 percent in 2004, as shown in Table WORK 8.
  • Historically, mothers who are divorced, separated or widowed have always had the highest rates of labor force participation. By 1994, the gap between these women and married mothers had narrowed considerably; however, over the past 10 years this gap has again widened. In 2004, the labor force participation rate of divorced, separated or widowed mothers was 81 percent, compared to 68 percent for married mothers.
  • The labor force participation rate of married mothers with children under 18 followed an upward trend from 1950 until 1997 when it peaked at 71 percent. Since 1997 it has edged downward slowly.

Table WORK 8. Employment Status of Women with Children under 18 Years of Age: 1975-2004

  Labor Force Participation Rate (percent of population) Employment/Population Ratio
  Married, Spouse Present Divorced, Separated or Widowed Never-Married Married, Spouse Present Divorced, Separated or Widowed Never-Married
1975 44.9 62.8 42.2 40.5 54.9 32.1
1976 46.1 64.3 46.2 42.4 56.9 36.3
1977 48.2 66.4 43.4 44.6 58.7 29.6
1978 50.2 68.1 51.1 47.0 61.2 38.9
1979 51.9 67.8 54.4 48.6 61.4 42.6
1980 54.1 69.9 52.0 50.9 63.4 39.9
1981 55.7 70.5 52.3 52.1 63.0 38.3
1982 56.3 71.1 50.4 51.6 62.3 36.2
1983 57.2 70.1 49.8 52.4 58.5 34.5
1984 58.8 72.7 50.7 54.9 63.4 36.3
1985 60.8 72.9 51.6 56.8 64.0 39.3
1986 61.3 74.1 52.9 57.6 66.3 37.8
1987 63.8 74.0 54.1 60.4 66.5 40.2
1988 65.0 72.8 51.6 61.9 66.9 40.0
1989 65.6 72.0 54.7 63.1 66.0 43.1
1990 66.3 74.2 55.3 63.5 67.9 45.1
1991 66.8 72.7 53.6 63.2 66.1 44.0
1992 67.8 73.2 52.5 63.9 65.3 43.4
1993 67.5 72.1 54.4 64.2 65.9 44.0
1994 69.0 73.1 56.9 65.6 65.9 45.8
1995 70.2 75.3 57.5 67.1 69.1 47.9
1996 70.0 77.0 60.5 67.6 72.1 49.3
1997 71.1 79.1 68.1 68.6 72.0 56.6
1998 70.6 79.7 72.5 68.0 74.3 61.5
1999 70.1 80.4 73.4 68.0 75.4 64.8
2000 70.6 82.7 73.9 68.5 78.5 65.8
2001 70.4 83.1 73.5 68.0 78.7 64.6
2002 69.6 82.1 75.3 66.7 75.6 65.8
2003 69.2 82.0 73.1 66.3 74.7 63.2
2004 68.2 80.7 72.6 65.4 75.0 63.1

Notes: The Labor Force Participation Rate includes all women who are employed, laid off or unemployed but looking for work. The Employment/Population Ratio includes only those women who are employed. The population of mothers with children under age 18 includes those 16 years of age and older.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 1976-2005.

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