Econ Quiz: Labor Force Participation

(Image Source: Nastuh Abootalebi / Unsplash)

November 2022

As of September, 82.7% of all adults aged 25 to 54, 35.3% of teenagers aged 16 to 19, and 39.9% of those aged 55 and older participated in the labor force.

From the 1960s through the end of the 20th century the participation rate among all Americans aged 25 to 54 climbed from 64.2% in January 1948 to a peak of 84.6% in January 1999. This rise was fueled, in large part, by women entering the workforce.

Many of us remember mothers and grandmothers sharing stories of searching for employment in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s among gender segregated job postings, or being asked to leave a job or school after getting married or becoming pregnant. It’s no wonder that the labor force participation rate for women was only 32.1% in January 1948, when tracking began.

Legislation such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave women greater access to employment and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 granted equal access to schooling, and by January 1980, 60.4% of women (90.6% of men) aged 25 to 54 participated in the workforce. The proportion rose to 70.8% in January 1990 (89.6% of men), 74.6% in January 2000 (89.3% of men), dipped to 69.63% in January 2010 (80.9% of men) in the wake of the Great Recession, and recovered to 76.9% in January 2020 (86.25% of men).

Women left the workforce in greater numbers than men during the pandemic as childcare duties were shared unevenly during school and childcare shutdowns, which brings us to this week’s question. How many women have returned? In August 2022, 86.6% of men aged 25 to 54 participated in the labor force. What proportion of women aged 25 to 54 participated in the labor force this past August?

A. 87.2%

B. 74.2%

C. 54.1%

D. 77.2%

E. 68.3%


Answer D. 77.2% of women aged 25 to 54 participated in the labor force in August 2022.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. (26 October 2022). FRED: Activity rate females 25-54 United States.

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