In 1990, US women had one of the highest labor force participation rates among Western, economically advanced nations

economics

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In 1990, US women had one of the highest labor force participation rates among Western, economically advanced nations. By 2010, however, women in most other economically advanced countries had surpassed those in the United States in their participation rates. Unlike the United States, most other economically advanced nations have enacted an array of policies designed to facilitate women’s participation in the labor force, and such policies have on average expanded over the last 20 years relative to the United States. In this paper, we study the role of such policies in explaining the decline in US women’s relative position in labor force participation internationally and discuss some possible unintended side effects of these policies, including a reliance on part-time employment for women and lower female representation in high-level positions.

I. The Facts: Women’s Labor Force Outcomes and Work-Family Policies Table 1 shows male and female labor force participation rates (LFPRs) for the United States and the average of 21 other OECD countries for 1990 and 2010 for 25–54-year-olds (to abstract from schooling and retirement decisions). In 1990, US women’s LFPR of 74 percent was the sixth highest among the 22 countries. By 2010, US women’s LFPR had risen slightly to 75.2 percent; however, on average, women in the other countries had dramatically raised their LFPR from

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