Opting Out: An Exploration of Labor Force Participation of New Mothers

Jennifer Cheeseman Day, U.S. Census Bureau
Barbara Downs, U.S. Census Bureau

Media outlets have highlighted the choice of some professional women to exit the labor force after having a baby. In so doing, they portray these individuals as the vanguard of a “revolution” of women quitting work to take care of children. Scholars argue this is a media myth: few women have the luxury of opting out. This research furthers the ‘opt-out’ discussion by investigating the true prevalence of this phenomenon using the most recent nationally representative data available – the three year file from the American Community Survey. We add a new dimension to the discussion by exploring whether opting-out is equally apparent across occupation. In other words, are some occupations more child-friendly than others? What circumstances unfold that drive women to forgo a regular paycheck?

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Presented in Poster Session 2