Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Fourteenth Report to Congress. Employment and Work-related Risk Factor 7. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children Under 18

09/22/2015

Figure WORK 7. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children under 18: 1975-2012

Figure WORK 7. Labor Force Participation of Women with Children under 18: 1975-2012

Note: The labor force participation rate includes all women who are employed, laid off or unemployed but looking for work. The employment rate 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Source:  U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished tabulations from the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2013 and earlier reports.


  • Figure WORK 7 shows the labor force participation rates for mothers with children under 18 years of age by marital status between 1975 and 2012.  In 2012, regardless of marital status, the majority of mothers in the U.S. were engaged in the labor force. 
  • Between 1975 and 2012, labor force participation rates for never-married mothers with children under 18 markedly increased—rising from 42.2 percent in 1975 to 71.5 percent in 2012.
  • Historically, divorced, widowed and separated mothers have had the highest rates of labor force participation among mothers.  In 1975, 62.8 percent of divorced, widowed or separated mothers were in the labor force, rising to 80.2 percent in 2012.
  • The labor force participation rate of married mothers with children under 18 followed an upward trend increasing from 44.9 percent in 1975 to 71.1 percent in 1997, before decreasing some to 68.5 percent in 2012.   
  • Table WORK 7 shows both the labor force participation rate and the employment rate of mothers with children under 18 years of age between 1975 and 2012.
  • The employment rate for all mothers increased over the time period up until 2000 and has since reached a plateau.  In 2012, the employment rate for married mothers with a spouse present was 65.0 percent, the employment rate for divorced, widowed and separated mothers was 71.8 percent, and the employment rate for never-married mothers was 59.6 percent.

Table WORK 7. Employment Status of Women with Children under 18 Years of Age: 1975-2012

 

 

Labor Force Participation Rate

(percent of population)

Employment Rate
(percent of population)

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

2005

68.1

79.8

72.9

66.0

74.4

62.0

2006

68.4

80.4

71.5

66.2

75.4

62.5

2007

69.3

80.0

71.4

67.4

75.2

63.7

2008

69.4

79.3

71.0

67.1

74.6

62.9

2009

69.8

79.2

72.0

66.0

70.3

60.9

2010

69.7

79.2

70.1

65.3

70.4

57.4

2011

69.1

79.8

70.0

65.0

70.3

56.8

2012

68.5

80.2

71.5

65.0

71.8

59.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:  The labor force participation rate includes all women who are employed, laid off or unemployed but looking for work. The employment rate 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, March 2012 and earlier reports.

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