Women at Work

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

I presented a set of findings from Census Bureau programs on CSPAN today. Collectively, they provide interesting insights into gender roles and the place of women in the economy.


They are based on supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS) (which we do jointly with the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the American Community Survey (ACS), and the Survey of Business Owners. The Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey are ongoing. The Survey of Business Owners is on an every-five-year cycle.

Female employment has been steadily increasing over the past decades, both in numbers and percentages of the female population. The occupations in which women are prevalent tend to be service-oriented (health care, education) relative to manufacturing, construction, and others. Among full-time workers, women tend to work fewer hours; median hours near 38 per week versus men, near 42 per week. But over time this gap is narrowing. Women tend to have lower incomes; this gap also is gradually narrowing, but still is less than 80% of what men make.

The income difference itself varies by occupation. Women incomes are closer to men’s in occupations such as nursing, computer programming, and personal care services, but much lower than males among farmers, physicians, and accountants. Overall, the income differences by gender are lower for more highly educated groups than among those with lower education. In addition to income differences by gender being related to what types of occupations mean and women tend to hold, women tend to work fewer hours per week than males, which affects total income. While many of these differences show long-term declines, with men and women’s attributes becoming more similar, the last decade appears presents a bit of a plateau for the differences.

Women are active in starting new businesses; women-owned business now form over a third of all businesses. Women-owned businesses tend to be smaller than those owned by men, with fewer employees, and lower sales, on average. However, the growth in numbers of women-owned firms appears to be exceeding that of men, in the 1997-2007 period. The industries that women-owned firms are more prevalent are service-oriented – health care and educational services, for example.

In contrast to earlier decades, women are pursuing post-secondary education at higher rates than men. This may imply changes in occupation, income, and business ownership in the coming decades, if those educational investments produce their normal effects. Male-female contrasts in the economy may continue to change.

More information on the ACS and CPS findings can be found through our website. Our colleagues at the Economic Statistics Administration have compiled very useful summaries on economic activities of women.

Census Bureau slides from the broadcast.

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3 Responses to Women at Work

  1. Deborah Reilly says:

    If men work 42 hours to earn 100% of their salary, they earn 2.381% of their salary per hour. Multiply 2.381% by 4 (the fewer number of hours women work outside the home) and find that equals 9.524%, the mean percentage women would earn based on hours alone.
    That figure leaves 10.48% unaccounted for, (20% – 9.52% = 10.48%) without a tidy rationale. We have heard the excuses thousands of times: “Women tend to work fewer hours, in service jobs, leave the workforce to raise their children, are caregivers and tend to take leaves to care for aging parents, are more likely to leave their employment when a spouse is transferred.” The verbiage does not matter. What matters is the underlying message: “We value you less…sorry Babe.”
    It is time for this to change. There are more of us. We live longer. We stay healthier. More of us are educated. Stand up for yourselves, women of America. Demand to be compensated fairly.
    Thank you for allowing me to comment.

  2. I agree, I think the salary issues will eventually be put to be. Men seem to be stagnating when it comes to education while women continue to pursue post graduate work. Interesting numbers. Thanks

  3. I saw your stuff on CPSN and thought it was a little bit sexist if I am honest.

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