U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ADMINISTRATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20210
WOMEN WORKERS TODAY
The 35 million women in the civilian labor force are a cross
section of all women in the Nation. They are of all ages from 16
to 70 or more and of every race and color. They include the married,
the single, the widowed, and the divorced or separated; and they
live on farms, in suburbs, and in central cities.
During the last 53 years the ranks of women workers have risen
from only 1 out of 5 to almost 2 out of 5 of all workers:
Over this period the profile of the average woman worker has changed
greatly--from that of the 28-year-old single factory worker or
clerk of 1920 to that of the 36-year-old married woman of today
who may be found in any of a great number of occupations.
Women supply many of the workers needed for expanding indus-
tries. Their services are equally necessary to the continued
functioning of vital health and educational services, factories,
Note:--Data on women in this report refer to persons 16 years of
age and over in the civilian labor force, unless otherwise indicated.
stores, and offices. They contribute substantially to the incomes
of their families. What kinds of women are they? What jobs do they
hold? What are their work patterns? How much do they earn?
Personal Characteristics of Women Workers
The likelihood that a woman will be in the labor force at any
particular time varies considerably according to her age, marital
and family status, education, race or ethnic background, and, if
married, her husband's income.
Age.--A woman is most likely to be working if she is young and has
finished her schooling or if she is mature (35 to 54) and has no
young children. She is least apt to be working if she is under 18
or over 54 years of age. She is slightly less apt to be working
if she is 25 to34, the childbearing years.
Women Workers in 1973
16 and over
16 and 17 years
18 and 19 years
20 to 24 years
25 to 34 years
35 to 44 years
45 to 54 years
55 to 64 years
65 years and over
18 to 64 years
Marital status.--Almost three-fifth (58 percent) of all women
workers are married and living with their husbands; more than one-
fifth (23 percent) are single; and nearly one-fifth (19 percent)
are widowed, divorced, or separated from their husbands. Married
women are more likely to be workers than are widows (a great many
of whom are elderly),but they are less likely to be in the labor
force than divorced or separated women or single women.
Women Workers in 1973
Married (husband present)
Divorced or separated
Children.--About 13.0 million women in the labor force in March 1973
had children under the age of 18 years; 4.8 million of these working
mothers had children under the age of 6. The presence of young
children in the family has a direct effect on the mother's labor
force participation. Among married women living with their husbands,
only one-third of the mothers with children under 6 years but half
of the mothers with school-age children only are workers. Among
widows, divorcees, and women separated from their husbands, however,
nearly half (47 percent) of those with preschool children are workers.
But if they have school-age children only, about 2 out of 3 of these
women are in the labor force.
Education.--Seven out of 10 women workers have at least a high school
education, and 1 out of 8 is a college graduate. Generally the
more education a woman has, the more likely she is to be in the
labor force. Of all women 16 years of age and over in the popula-
tion who had completed less than 8 years of schooling, less than 1
out of 4 was in the labor force in March 1973. However, about half
of those who had completed high school and more than 2 out of 3 of
those who had 5 years or more of college were workers, as shown
Elementary High College
22% 27% 51% 58% 69%
Less 8 Years 4 Years 4 Years 5 Years
Than or more
Minority races.--About one-eighth of all women workers are of minority
races.l/ Their labor force participation rates are generally higher
than those of white women. Forty-nine percent of all minority women
16 years of age and over but only 44 percent of white women were in
the labor force in 1973. Among women of the usual working ages
(18 to 64), the respective proportions were 56 and 51 percent.
Black.--Nearly 12 percent of all women workers in 1973 were
black (Negro). Forty-nine percent of black women 16 years of age
and over were workers. The highest labor force participation rate
was among those 25 to 34 years of age (63 percent).
Spanish origin.--About 4 percent of all women workers in 1973
were of Spanish origin. Forty-one percent of Spanish-origin women
16 years of age and over were in the labor force. The highest
labor force participation rate was among those 35 to 44 years of
age (46 percent).
Husband's income.--A married woman is most apt to be working if her
husband's income is between $7,000 and $9,999; 49 percent of such
women work. She is least apt to be working if her husband's income
is below $5,000 or is $10,000 or over (37 and 41 percent, respectively).
Employment Characteristics of Women Workers
Worklife patterns.--Typically a woman enters the labor force after
she has finished her schooling and works a few years before she
marries or has her first child. A very small proportion of women
leave the labor force permanently at this time. Most women who
marry experience some breaks in employment during their child-
bearing and childrearing years. However, an increasing proportion
of young married women with and without children are remaining in
the labor force. More than 4 out of 10 married women 25 to 34 years
of age were workers in March 1973, as compared with less than 3
out of 10 in 1963 and about 2 out of 10 in 1948.
In 1973, 45 percent of all women 16 years of age and over in
the population were workers. Of the 43 million women who were not
in the labor force, 35 million were keeping house, nearly 4 million
were students, and nearly 4 million were out of the labor force
because of ill health, disability, or other reasons.
1/ Data for minority races refer to all races other than
white. Negroes constituted 89 percent of all persons other than
white in the United States in 1970; Orientals, 8 percent; and
American Indians, 3 percent. Spanish-origin persons are generally
included in the white population--about 93 percent of the Spanish-
origin population is white.
Full-time and full-year workers.--Almost 7 out of 10 women workers
have full-time jobs at some time during the year, but just over 4 out
of 10 work at full-time jobs the year round. Women 16 to 19 years of
age, most of whom are in school, are least likely to be employed full
time the year round--only 8 percent of those who worked at any time
in 1972 were so employed. Women 45 to 64 years of age are most likely
to be fully employed the year round (56 percent in 1972).
Part-time workers.--Part-time employment frequently is preferred by
married women with family responsibilities (especially women with
young children), students, and women 65 years of age and over.
Thus, 12.3 million women worked at part-time jobs at some time during
1972. Part-time work is most common among farm, private household,
and sales workers. But many women also hold part-time jobs as
waitresses or cooks; bookkeepers; stenographers, typists, or
secretaries; teachers; and medical or other health workers.
Occupations.--The occupational distribution of women is very differ-
ent from that of men. This is shown in the following charts for
employed persons in 1973.
Women are more apt than men to be white-collar workers, but
the jobs they hold are usually less skilled and pay less than
those of men. Women professional workers are most likely to be
teachers, nurses, and other health workers, while men are most
frequently employed in professions other than teaching and health.
Women are less likely than men to be managers and officials, and
are far more likely to be clerical workers.
About 1 out of 6 women workers is employed in a blue-collar
job, but almost half the men are in such jobs. Women are almost as
likely as men to be factory workers, but are very seldom employed
as skilled craft workers--the occupation group for 1 out of 5 men
More than 1 out of 5 women but only 1 out of 12 employed men
is a service worker. Eight out of 10 women and virtually all of
the men service workers are employed in occupations other than
private household work.
Unemployment.--Unemployment rates are consistently higher for women
than for men, for teenagers than for adults, and for minority races
than for whites:
unemployed in 1973
Race and age Women Men
All races 6.0 4.1
16 to 19 years 15.2 13.9
20 years and over 4.8 3.2
Minority races 10.5 7.6
16 to 19 years 34.5 26.9
20 years and over 8.2 5.7
Earnings.--Among workers fully employed the year round, women's
median earnings were less than three-fifths of those of men--
$6,335 and $11,186, respectively, in 1973. These substantial
differences may be due in part to the concentration of women in
certain occupations, which could involve elements of discrimina-
tion. Earnings differentials may also reflect differences in the
amount and type of training or education a worker has received,
the skill level and demand for the particular occupation, the
number of hours worked per week, and the lifetime work experience
of the employee. The Council of Economic Advisers to the President
estimated in 1973 that "a differential, perhaps on the order of
20 percent, between the earnings of men and women remains after
adjusting for factors such as education, work experience during
the year, and even lifelong work experience."