Strong labor force participation is a key input to economic growth, but the labor force participation rate in the United States among both men and women has fallen in recent decades. While women’s labor force participation had increased dramatically over the course of the second half of the 20th century as gender norms changed, women pursued more education and wage stagnation necessitated two incomes to support household income, it stalled and even declined after 2000. A critical cause of this decline is the lack of structural support for women’s full economic participation.
The coronavirus pandemic shed new light on this problem, as the closure of daycares and the shift to online school combined with labor market losses pushed women’s labor force participation rate to its lowest level in 35 years, to 54.6% in April 2020.
Policies now under consideration as part of the Build Back Better Act, namely paid leave and child care, would provide the infrastructure that families need in order to both meet their care needs and participate more fully in the economy. Furthermore, by facilitating greater labor force participation among women, these policies will generate not just stronger economic outcomes for their families but also our entire economy.
Read the full brief here.