The Recent decline in women’s labor force participation

A multi-ethnic group of business professionals are getting training at the corporate office. A woman is presenting on their business concepts.
Editor's note:

This is a chapter from The 51%: Driving growth through women’s economic participation, edited by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and Ryan Nunn.


While women’s labor force participation has increased substantially in the U.S. over the second half of the 20th century, this growth has stagnated and reversed since 2000, with women’s labor force participation falling by 3.5 percentage points. This pattern persists across women of varying races and ethnicities, educational backgrounds, ages, and marital statuses, and for women with and without children alike. Interestingly, this decline seems to be moving directly against the trends observed in other major OECD economies. In order to facilitate economic growth in the United States, policies should be directed toward enabling and encouraging women to participate in the labor force.


The authors did not receive financial support from any firm or person for this paper or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this paper. They are currently not officers, directors, or board members of any organization with an interest in this paper.