More: Is the high cost of childcare coaxing women out of the workforce?

In a prior post, we dissected  the declining labor force participation rates in the U.S. …

Splitting the population by gender revealed some interesting differences  in LFPR trends…

Note that from 1965 to about 1999, men (blue line) were steadily leaving the labor force.

But, during that period women (red line) were entering at a faster clip than the men were dropping out … so total LFPR (black line) continued to inch up.

Around 1999, women’s LFPR flattened out … but men continued to leave the workforce … so the total LFPR peaked and started to creep down.

Since 2008, both men and women have been leaving the work force, so the total LFPR has steepened its decline.

But, men are leaving at a slightly faster rate than women.


And, we posted the results of a study indicating that women’s LFPR in the U.S. is low relative to other countries … and declining at a time that it’s increasing in other countries.

Pundits attribute the higher LFPRs in other countries to more flexible work hours and government subsidized childcare.

Let’s look into things a bit deeper …


First, there’s no disputing that childcare expenses in the U.S. are an enormous burden for working women.

According to a  study cited by Fortune, the average cost of childcare is about $18,000 per year.

Putting that number in perspective, a study by the Economic Policy Institute concluded that:

  • In 33 states and the District of Columbia, annual infant care costs exceed the average cost of in-state college tuition at public 4-year institutions.
  • In most parts of the U.S.,  families spend more on childcare now costs more than rent.

Also according to the survey, 69% of parents say that the cost of care has impacted their career decisions.

Most experts agree that the burden and impact of childcare costs falls disproportionately on lower income single mothers.

“It’s tougher and tougher for women to make it worthwhile to work.  For low- and middle-income families, it literally isn’t worth going to work if the cost of child care exceeds what you’d bring in.”


And, understandably, there’s a strong correlation between education and “what you’d bring in”.

According to the Times/CBS/Kaiser poll, 77 % of American women who are not working did not graduate from college.


According to Robert Moffitt, a labor economist at Johns Hopkins University: “The steepest declines in work-force participation were among unmarried women.”

Data seems support his conclusion .

Over the past 20years, almost the full increase in the number of stay-at-home moms has been attributable to unmarried women.

The percentage of married moms who stay-at-home has stayed relatively constant at about 1 in 5.




The bottom line

No question that childcare costs are high and getting higher.

For college-educated married moms, its an economic challenge …. but doesn’t seem to be coaxing them out of the workforce.

For others – unmarried with lesser education and low-paying jobs – the mix of higher childcare costs and increased government support is coaxing some women out of the workforce … and pushing labor force participation rates down.

That’s not a social comment … it’s strictly statistical.



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