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[Excerpt] Over the past 70 years, women’s participation in labor force activities has greatly expanded. Immediately following World War II, less than one-third of women were in the labor force. However, women soon began to participate in greater numbers, and their labor force participation rose rapidly from the 1960s through the 1980s before slowing in the 1990s. Women reached the peak of their labor force participation in 1999, with a rate of 60.0 percent. Since then, labor force participation among women has declined, to 57.0 percent in 2014, which is still relatively high by historical standards. In addition, a large share of women work full time and year-round. Over time, women have increasingly attained higher levels of education: among women ages 25 to 64 who are in the labor force, the proportion with a college degree more than tripled from 1970 to 2014, increasing from 11.2 percent to 40.0 percent. Women’s earnings as a proportion of men’s earnings also have grown over time. In 1979, women working full time earned 62 percent of what men earned; in 2014, women’s earnings were 83 percent of men’s.

This report presents historical and recent labor force and earnings data for women and men from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unless otherwise noted, data are annual averages from the CPS. (For a detailed description of the source of the data and an explanation of concepts and definitions used, see the Technical Notes at the end of this report.)


Suggested Citation
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015). Women in the labor force: A databook (BLS Report 1059). Washington, DC: Author.