Baby Not Yet 1? There's a Good Chance Mom Is Working

In 2022, 66.6% of US women who had given birth in past 12 months had a job
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2023 5:10 PM CDT
Baby Not Yet 1? There's a Good Chance Mom Is Working
Flexible work schedules has contributed to women staying in the workforce after pregnancy.   (Getty / kieferpix)

New mothers are returning to work at notably high rates these days, helping the US sidestep the post-pandemic "she-cession" many economists feared. Axios breaks down findings from the American Community Survey, reporting that in 2022, 66.6% of women in the United States who had given birth in the previous 12 months were part of the workforce; that's compared to 66.5% in 2021 and 61.6% in 2010. Motherhood frequently leads to a temporary exit for many women, slowing down career progression and contributing to the gender pay gap. Reasons cited for new moms going back to work so quickly include higher prices due to inflation paired with the increase in flexible and remote opportunities in the wake of the pandemic.

"The silver lining of the pandemic is that everyone started to understand the ways that caregiving and career intersect," Christine Winston of Path Forward, a group that helps women return to work, told NPR. She thinks that workplace flexibility has helped activate untapped populations. "A lot more employers became aware that there was this huge pool of talent on the sidelines." Women's careers were hit harder during the pandemic than men, per the Financial Times, with a larger percentage losing or quitting their jobs in 2020. An estimated 2 million women left the workforce at the time, but the paper notes that "in recent months, there have been more mothers in the workforce [75% of all US mothers in July] than at any time since the Labor Department began tracking them in 1948."

But not all mothers are returning to work by choice. "Moms returned to the labor force at a quicker rate than women without children," observed Misty Heggeness, a University of Kansas professor, "and my interpretation of that is that moms had to come back to work because of the economic needs of their families. In today's economy, being a one-earner family is becoming a luxury of the ultra-rich." And when women come back to work, the gender pay gap widens. In the US, working mothers earn an average of 62 cents for every dollar earned by working fathers, while overall, women typically earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. (In better news, daughters of working mothers tend to have higher salaries).

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