According to Brookings’ Hamilton Project, 70.4% of women with children under the age of five were participating in the workforce , compared to 68.9% before the pandemic.
Ten years ago, this group had a labor force participation rate of around 63%.
The rate is even higher for women with at least a bachelor’s degree, whose pre-pandemic peak was 77.9%, but have reached nearly 81% as of April.
“They and women without children are so far the only groups who across all education levels have generally returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic rates of participation,” study authors Lauren Bauer, Hamilton Project associate director, and Sarah Yu Wang, research intern, wrote.
Marital status is also becoming less of a factor in labor force participation among women with young children, as it is “moving toward convergence.”
From 2016 to 2019, 63.2% of married women with young children were in the workforce compared to 72.6% of unmarried women. By 2023, the number of married women had increased to 69%, and unmarried women had dipped slightly to 72.1%.
“This convergence appears to be happening only among mothers with young children,” the study noted.
While the reasons for the increases are not totally clear and were surprising to the researchers, the study suggests one factor could be the ability to work remotely for jobs, allowing women to both care for children and remain part of the workforce. While not addressed directly in the study, another factor could be the overall rising cost of childcare and housing, so mothers can’t afford to not go back to work after childbirth.
As the Washington Examiner reported , the ability to work remotely has given families the ability to maintain two income streams and be present parents for their children, something which is a hurdle for employers who want to call their workforce back to in-person duties.
The study also found that “prime-age women” — those ages 25 to 54 — also surpassed their all-time labor participation rate, reaching 77.8%. From 2007 to 2019, this group remained somewhere between 73% and 75%, reaching the lowest point in April 2020 when the entire labor force dropped.