Women in the Labor Force: A Databook
A 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook,” presents comprehensive historical and contemporary statistics on women’s participation in the labor force between 1970 and 2010, including employment, salaries and more.
The report is based on data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of approximately 60,000 U.S. households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Key findings include:
- The percentage of women in the workforce has risen from 43.3% in 1970 to 58.6% in 2010. Over the same period, the percentage of men in the workforce fell from 79.7% to 71.2%.
- The median weekly earnings for a woman working full-time in 2010 was $669, 81% of a man’s median weekly earnings ($824). In 2010 a woman age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned a median weekly salary of $986; a woman with an associate’s degree earned $677 per week and one with a high school education earned $543 per week.
- “[Median weekly] earnings of Asian ($773) and White ($684) women were substantially higher than the earnings of their Black ($592) and Hispanic ($508) counterparts. Women’s-to-men’s earnings ratios were higher among Blacks (94%) and Hispanics (91%) than among Asians (83%) and Whites (81%).”
- Couples in which the husband was the sole wage earner represented 18% of married couples in 2009, a slight increase from 2008 (17.8%) and half the percentage (36%) in 1967. For more than half of couples (55%), both husbands and wives worked in 2009, up from 44% in 1967.
- In 2009, working wives earned 37% of their families’ incomes, a 10 percentage-point increase from 1970. “The proportion of wives earning more than their husbands also has grown. In 1987, 18% of working wives whose husbands also worked earned more than their spouses; in 2009, the proportion was 29%.”
- More women (7.5%) than men (6.6%) make up the ranks of the working poor. “Black and Hispanic women were significantly more likely than their White or Asian counterparts to be among the working poor. Poverty rates for Black and Hispanic working women were 14.2% and 13.6%, respectively, compared with 6.4% and 5.5%, respectively, for White and Asian women.”
- While the percentage of self-employed women in 2010 (5.2%) was less than that of their male counterparts (7.6%), the number of self-employed women has nearly doubled — from 35,027,000 to 65,164,000 — between 1976 and 2010.
Tags: women and work
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook.”
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related Newsweek article “Women Will Rule the World.”
- If you were to revise the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.