Our Top Takeaways: Why Did Hundreds of Thousands of Women Drop Out of the Work Force?

The DDP team highlights key figures from the New York Times article, “Why Did Hundreds of Thousands of Women Drop Out of the Work Force?” by

The article was published on October 3, 2020 with updates on October 13, 2020. Gupta outlines the U.S. Labor Department’s findings regarding September job losses. Six months after the pandemic reached the U.S., women continued to suffer the largest setbacks in the workplace, and many began to drop out altogether.

DDP’s Key Takeaways

The lower wage earner (usually the wife) is more likely to leave the work force. 

Between August and September 2020, over 800,000 women left the workforce.

Of that, 324,000 were Latinas and 58,000 were Black women.

According to the National Women’s Law center, 216,000 men left the job market during the same time period.

The labor participation rates in September 2020 dropped from 58.3% to 56.3% for white women aged 20 and older, from 62% to 59.8% for Black women, and from 61% to 57% for Latina women.  

The bigger the wage gap across spouses, the smaller the labor supply of the secondary earner, which is typically the wife.

Stefania Albanesi, an economics professor at the University of Pittsburgh

From the article: 

The September jobs numbers, released by the Labor Department on Friday, confirmed what economists and experts had feared: The recession unleashed by the pandemic is sidelining hundreds of thousands of women and wiping out the hard-fought gains they made in the workplace over the past few years.

While the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September, far below the record high of nearly 15 percent in April, a large part of that drop was driven not so much by economic growth — though there were some job gains — but by hundreds of thousands of people leaving the job market altogether.

A majority of those dropping out were women. Of the 1.1 million people ages 20 and over who left the work force (neither working nor looking for work) between August and September, over 800,000 were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. That figure includes 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women. For comparison, 216,000 men left the job market in the same time period.

From the start of the pandemic, the job losses among women have been a direct result of the collapse of female-dominated industries like hospitality, education, entertainment and even some parts of the health care system.

But even as parts of the economy stirred back to life, recent data suggests that some women are actually beginning to opt out.