Earlier this decade there were many news articles and attention given to moms “opting out,” and the suggestion was that there was a new movement for women to stay at home for purposes of raising children and running households. I, for one, totally respect a woman’s right to choose what type of career she wants, be it in a paying job or an unpaid job as household manager and parent, but I still was a bit dismayed by all of these reports. Well, new evidence suggests that it’s the economy, and not a cultural swing towards stay-at-home-motherhood, that has led to decreased numbers of women in the workforce.
An article in the NYTimes today, Poor Economy Slows Women in Workplace, cites a congressional study and some economists in saying that:
After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for awhile.
“When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.”
There’s also evidence that the downturn in the past few years has hit women harder:
Pay is no longer rising smartly for women in the key 25-to-54 age group. Just the opposite, the median pay — the point where half make more and half less — has fallen in recent years, to $14.84 an hour in 2007 from $15.04 in 2004, adjusted for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The similar wage for men today is two dollars more.)
I can’t help but think of the phrase that was tried in a previous election year: It’s the economy, stupid.