Eileen Appelbaum, Heather Boushey, and John Schmitt |April 15, 2014: “Over the past three decades, there has been a steady rise in the share of women, especially mothers, in the workforce. As indicated by the data, the majority of women and mothers work, and many work full time and full year. This dramatic increase in women’s working hours has had a substantial impact both on household earnings and the economy more generally. Our analysis finds that:
- Middle-class households would have substantially lower earnings today if women’s employment patterns had remained unchanged. Had that been the case, gross domestic product, or GDP, would have been roughly 11 percent lower in 2012 if women had not increased their working hours as they did. In today’s dollars, this translates to more than $1.7 trillion less in output—roughly equivalent to combined U.S. spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2012.
- Most dramatic is the increase in the share of mothers who work full time and full year—at least 35 hours per week and 50 weeks per year—which rose from 27.3 percent of mothers in 1979 to 46 percent of mothers in 2007 before declining somewhat to 44.1 percent in the wake of the Great Recession. Full-time, full-year employment for all women increased from 28.6 percent of all women in 1979 to 43.6 percent in 2007 before declining to 40.7 percent in 2012.
- The median annual hours worked by women increased 739 hours from 1979 to 2012. All of this increase in median hours took place between 1979 and 2000. Median annual hours of work by mothers increased even more dramatically, rising 960 hours from 1979 to 2012, with all of the increase occurring by 2000.”