The percentage of women in their prime earning years who work has gone down, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers cut across demographics, and have more to do with a sluggish economy and a lack of opportunity than a rekindled interest in child rearing. As one congressional economist told The New York Times, “A woman gets laid off and she stays home for six months with her kids. ... She doesn’t admit that she is staying home because she could not get another acceptable job.”
New York Times:
After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for awhile.
“When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.”
Hard times in manufacturing certainly sidelined Tootie Samson of Baxter, Iowa. Nine months after she lost her job on a factory assembly line, Ms. Samson, 48, is still not working. She could be. Jobs that pay $8 or $9 an hour are easy enough to land, she says. But like the men with whom she worked at the Maytag washing machine factory, now closed, near her home, she resists going back to work at less than half her old wage.