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Opting out revolution a myth: Study shows steep employment gains for women, mothers
Date:6/10/2008

WASHINGTON, DC Contrary to the popular perception of a so-called "opting out revolution," new sociological research from the June issue of the American Sociological Review reveals that professional women's employment rates have continually pushed higher over time, and that the employment gap between mothers and childless women is shrinking.

To determine the truth behind the opting out phenomenon described in mass media reports, sociologist Christine Percheski examined trends among college-educated women born between 1906 and 1975 and found that professional women's employment levels have made steep gains over time, especially for mothers of young children and women in historically male professions.

Despite anecdotal reports of successful working women returning to the home to assume child care responsibilities, less than 8 percent of professional women born since 1956 leave the workforce for a year or more during their prime childbearing years, according to the study.

Percheski's research shows that the number of women with young children who work full-time year-round has increased steadily, growing from a rate of 5.6 percent of women born 1926 to 1935 (referred to as the "Baby Boom Parents" by Percheski), to 38.1 percent of women from Generation X (born 1966 to 1975). More professional Generation X mothers of young children were working full-time year-round than their counterparts in any previous generation.

Percheski finds that among mothers of older children (those age 6 to 18), full-time employment is the norm for professional women of Generation X.

When examining general labor force participation rates, Percheski finds even more drastic growth. About a third of women with young children from the Baby Boom Parents group participated in the labor force while their children were under age 6, but the rate increased to a little more than three-quarters for Generation X mothers of young children.

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Contact: Jackie Cooper
jcooper@asanet.org
202-247-9871
American Sociological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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