In March 2015 women’s labor force participation rate in the 25 to 54 year old age group was at 73.4%; the lowest level since July 1989, the most recent date when women’s labor force participation was that low. Women’s labor force participation was at 73.4% in July 1989, then it hit its peak of 77.3% in April 2000, then it sunk again to 73.4% in March 2015.
It needs to be understood, this long term fall in women’s labor force participation since April 2000 is absolutely unprecedented. From 1870 to 2000 women’s labor force participation always always went up from one decade to the next. For historical perspective; women’s labor force participation in the 25 to 54 age group was 14.9% in 1890 (10.3% for white women in 1890), 33.5% in January 1948, and then 77.3% in April 2000 and 73.4% in March 2015.
This brings up the question, is the feminist revolution at an end? Ever greater numbers of women working has been a hallmark of women’s “empowerment” or as I would put it of men’s abandonment of women. Now women working appears to be very definitely in long term decline reversing the prior trend that held very firmly in place from 1870 to 2000; since the very beginnings of the modern feminist revolution.
Granted; looking at men’s labor force participation in the same 25 to 54 age group the picture is not so rosy. Men’s labor force participation being 93.6% in July 1989, 91.7% in April 2000, and 88.7% in March 2015. Men’s labor force participation has been in slow steady decline since 1967. It is worth pointing out however that men’s labor force participation was almost the same in December 2010 (at 88.9%) as it is today (at 88.7% for March 2015). Women’s labor force participation dropped from 75.2% in December 2010 to 73.4% in March 2015 indicating that at least since December 2010 women’s labor force participation has been dropping steadily while men’s labor force participation has stayed about the same overall.
A healthy society is where men take care of women, where men financially support women. This means that high labor force participation among men is good while high labor force participation among women is bad. Since 2000 the trend has been both women’s labor force participation and men’s labor force participation dropping. Things will truly be looking good when men’s labor force participation starts increasing while women’s labor force participation continues to drop hopefully at an accelerated pace. We haven’t been seeing that yet but maybe possibly men’s labor force participation is at least entering into a stabilization period and is no longer in steady decline.
Here are some line graphs courtesy of Economagic showing Women’s and Men’s Labor Force Participation Rate in the 25 to 54 age group from 1989 to 2016 (up to the latest data being March 2015). The “SA” part means Seasonally Adjusted.
Another interesting area to look at is the labor force participation rate of married women; all married women over 16 years old. In 1977 46.4% of married women were in the workforce (2.2% of white married women and 22.7% of black married women were in the workforce in 1890). The proportion of married women in the workforce peaked in the years 1997 and 2009; it being 61.6% in 1997 and 61.4% in 2009. Since 2009 married women in the workforce has dropped steadily from 61.4% in 2009 to 58.4% in 2014. The last time married women in the workforce has been as low as 58.4% was in 1990.
Here is a line graph showing the proportion of married women in the workforce year by year from 1989 to 2014. The data source for this being the Current Population Survey as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics website on their Data Tools page under Employment – Labor Force Statistics.
The strongest indicator that men are starting to become serious about their breadwinner role and their breadwinner responsibility is the surprising reversal of trend since 1960 of ever lower college graduation rates of men as compared to women in the 25 to 34 year old age group over the prior 5 years. In other words since 1960 men’s rate of college graduation has always declined relative to women’s over a 5 year period. This trend ended in 2013 when men’s graduation rate went from 28.8% in 2008 to 31.3% in 2013; the comparable figures for women being 35.9% in 2008 and 37.9% in 2013. In other words men’s rate of college graduation increased more from 2008 to 2013 than was the case for women; the first time this had happened over a 5 year period since 1960. In 1960 men’s rate of college graduation in the 25 to 34 age group was 14.5%; the figure for women being 7.5%. Women first surpassed men in their college graduation rate in 1991; 23.5% for men and 23.8% for women in that year. The most extreme advantage for women was in 2010 when 28.8% of men had degrees and 36.9% of women had degrees. In 2014 the college graduation rate for men was 31.6% and for women was 39.0%.
Here is a line graph showing the proportion of the population that had college degrees in the 25 to 34 year old age group among men and women from 1960 to 2014. The data source for this being the Current Population Survey; Table A-1 on the Educational Attainment – CPS Historical Time Series Tables page. My data points for 1961 and 1963 come from me taking the average of 1960 and 1962 and 1962 and 1964 respectively.
Next is a line graph showing the ratio of the male college graduation rate to the female college graduation rate from 1960 to 2014 where I divided the proportion of men with college degrees by the proportion of women with college degrees for each year.
Women’s labor force participation started dropping first in 2000 before any indication of men “stepping up” to stop withdrawing from their work effort emerged. Starting in 2010 some evidence of men no longer withdrawing from labor force effort is starting to emerge in the form of men’s labor force participation rate not dropping significantly from December 2010 to March 2015 and in men’s college graduation rate no longer falling relative to women since 2010. Also since 2010 finally married women’s labor force participation rate has been steadily declining.
Other social indicators have been showing some surprising strength recently, in particular the out-of-wedlock birth ratio not rising since 2009 and there being indications the likelihood of divorce in the first 10 years of marriage has been falling for young newlyweds in recent decades. I do believe Peak Social Disorder was seen in 2010 here in the United States and that now social indicators in general are improving instead of getting worse overall.
Patriarchy is returning to America, women are retreating from the workforce, feminism is starting to be beaten back at least in terms of how people are behaving if not yet in how people think.
Sources for the historical statistics given:
Other posts giving background on related social statistics and social indicators: