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In 2021, there were 24.2 million mothers in the US labor force with children younger than 18. Working moms had a labor force participation rate — the percentage of a population that is working or looking for work — of 71.7%, compared to working dads' 92.5%.[1]

How has mothers’ workforce participation changed over time?

In 1975, less than half (47.4%) of all women with children under 18 years old were in the labor force, according to the Department of Labor. That number reached a high of 72.9% in 2000 and has hovered just below that in the years since.

Labor force participation rates have particularly changed for mothers of young children. They’ve nearly doubled for women with children under 3, from 34.3% in 1975 to 64.2% in 2021. Mothers with children under 6 were the least likely of all women to work in 1975. In 2022, their labor force participation rate was more than 10 points higher than for women overall.

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, mothers with elementary school-aged children (6 to 12 years old) had steeper declines in employment than mothers with older or very young children. It also took them longer as a group to regain pre-pandemic employment levels.

What are the most common occupations for working moms?

The most popular job for working mothers in 2022 was registered nurse. About 1.3 million mothers worked as registered nurses, and working mothers made up 38% of all people working in that profession.

Other common occupations include elementary and middle school teachers (1.2 million working moms), cashiers (1 million), and customer service representatives (873,000).

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How does pay differ between working moms and working dads?

In 2022, median weekly earnings for working mothers were 68.9% of earnings for fathers, according to the Labor Department. Working men with children under 18 brought home median weekly earnings of $1,316, compared with $908 for women.

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In how many households is a mother the equal, primary, or sole earner?

In 2019, mothers were the equal, primary, or sole earners in 40.5% of households, according to the Labor Department. That share has decreased from a peak of 41.7% in 2010. In 1960, 11.3% of households had a mother as the equal, primary, or sole earner.

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What other factors affect American mothers in the labor force?

New mothers’ employment is impacted by pregnancy, postpartum recovery, nursing, and parenthood, among many other things — this list is not exhaustive.

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Women’s labor force participation rates by age of youngest child since 1975
American Community Survey
Women in the labor force: a databook

The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployed people are part of the labor force, while people who do not have a job and aren’t looking for one are not part of the labor force.