Following our look at labor force participation rates (LFPR) and employment opportunities for prime working age males in Oregon the other day, today we will focus on female participation. The patterns shown below are both different from a 60 year perspective but similar if we focus just on the past 15 years or so.
Female participation differs significantly in the sense that it rose considerably in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as women entered the workforce in much greater numbers than historically had been the case. These gains are seen across the educational attainment spectrum. Female participation, while higher than a generation or two ago, still remains lower than male participation. Nationally, in 2015 prime working age women had a LFPR of nearly 74% while men were just over 88%. According to the Oregon Employment Department’s report on participation, it looks like the male-female gap is somewhat smaller here in Oregon.
Where male and female participation trends look similar is in the fact that nonparticipation among prime working age adults has been rising in the past 15 years. It is certainly true that we are seeing in increase in stay-at-home moms, as our office’s report shows (and looking at the most recent data these trends have continued).
However, given lower birth rates and the like, the uptick in stay-at-home moms is not quite as apparent when looking at all women in terms of why LFPR has been decreasing. Overall, much of the gains in nonparticipation are due to reasons other than staying home to take care of the kids, even as that remains the single largest reason cited. Since 2000, nonparticipation rates are up due to increased school enrollment (1.0 percentage point), retirements/other (1.2 ppt), illness or disability (1.4 ppt), those who could not find a job (1.8 ppt) and taking care of home or family (2.4 ppt).
The changing labor market and job opportunities likely has a significant impact on participation rates for women, just as they do for men as we noted the other day. This is particularly true among those with lower levels of formal schooling. The last graph shows the employment-population ratio by job type for Oregon women with a high school diploma or less. This is the time series version of the distributional change chart included in the male post.
While low-wage employment opportunities have been rising over time, the decline of middle-wage jobs is equally important for women in the workforce. This is true, even though the conventional wisdom tends to focus on the decline of the blue collar jobs which have traditionally been held by men — construction, manufacturing, transportation, etc. In fact, next week I have some follow-up graphs on middle-wage job losses for prime working age Oregon men and women. Not to be click-baity, but one result even shocked me even as I knew it was probably true.