Why Are More Women Leaving The Workforce? It’s The Economy, Stupid

A recent study from the United States department of labor indicates that women are dropping out of the workforce for the same reasons as men: the poor economy and declining wages. According to an article in the New York Times, this decade has shown the first drop in the percentage of women in the workplace during a period of economic expansion since the start of the women’s rights movement. The number of women in the workplace had been steadily increasing since 1960 and peaked with 74.9 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 59 being employed in the year 2000 (the peak for men was in 1953 at 96.0 percent; the rate is now at 86.4 percent) . Since then, that number has been steadily declining, and is expected to accelerate as the nation faces recession.

For the past few years the conventional wisdom explaining the decline of women in the workplace was that women left their jobs for different reasons than men, such as to stay home with their children. As quoted in the New York Times, “When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.”

The congressional study seems to point that women are leaving the workforce for the same reasons as men: layoffs, pay cuts and the threat of outsourcing. While it does not seem all that surprising that women leave jobs for the same reason as men do, it does reveal the continuing disparities between men and women and the workplace, and the (often incorrect) assumptions that are often made on why certain groups people behave in the ways they do.


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