The Plateau in U.S. Women's Labor Force Participation: A Cohort Analysis


  • This paper is the second chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation at Michigan State University. I am grateful to Gary Solon, Stacy Dickert-Conlin, and Steven Haider for their valuable comments and guidance. I also thank Do Won Kwak and three anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions.


After going up steadily for the last century, the female labor force participation (FLFP) rate in the United States suddenly leveled off in the early 1990s. Using March Current Population Survey data, I find that the FLFP stopped rising for birth cohorts from the 1950s on. My shift-share analyses show that both the plateau and the earlier upward trend in FLFP appeared within almost every category broken down by education, marital status, and child-rearing.