The Percentage of Massachusetts Women in the Workforce is Declining

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Children |

The percentage of Boston metro area-women who recently gave birth and remain in the workforce has been slowly shrinking since 2019 but remains well above the national average, per new census data.

Why it matters: Motherhood often knocks women out of the labor force, at least temporarily — often slowing their career and earnings growth and contributing to the gender pay gap.

By the numbers: 76% of Boston-area women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were participating in the labor force as of 2022, per the latest American Community Survey data.

  • That’s compared to 76.2% in 2021, and 77.5% in 2019.

Yes, but: Participation remains higher than in 2010, when 69.5% of new mothers were participating in the labor force.

The big picture: Nationally, the percentage of women who recently gave birth and are working reached a decade-plus high-water mark last year of 66.6%.

  • That’s compared to 66.5% in 2021 and up from 61.6% in 2010.

What’s happening : While remote and flexible work is enabling new moms (and some new dads) to juggle both parenting and their careers, the astronomical cost of child care is hampering parents’ ability to do so.

  • Massachusetts is the most expensive state for child care, with full-time care costing an average of $16,781 a year, per Child Care Aware of America, an advocacy organization.
  • Inadequate child care access is costing Massachusetts an estimated $2.7 billion in lost earnings for employees, additional costs and productivity, according to a 2022 report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Threat level: Vital pandemic-era federal funding for child care centers cut off last weekend, which experts expect will deepen the child care affordability crisis as supply is further outstripped by demand.

  • In the Bay State, 1,809 child care centers looking after more than 56,000 children may close after the funding runs out, according to one widely cited estimate from national think tank The Century Foundation.
  • The group predicts that could amount to $219 million in lost earnings from Massachusetts parents forced to cut back working hours or drop out of the workforce altogether.

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