Title of Abstract

Women's Labor Force Participation and Occupational Prestige in the United States: 1968 – 2018

Session Title

Women's and Gender Studies

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Sociology, Criminology, and Anthropology

Abstract

This research centers on the evolution of U.S. women’s labor force participation and the prestige of their occupations from 1968 to 2018. Occupational prestige qualifies the social standing of each occupation in the labor force. Previous literature recognizes that women’s labor force participation has significantly increased since the late 1960s due to cultural and historical changes, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the prevalence of war in the United States. However, few sources in the literature focus on the prestige of the occupations that women held, which raises the question of how the occupational prestige of women’s employment has changed since 1968. Based on the literature, it is expected to find that white women are more likely than non-white women to increase their participation in higher prestige occupations, that married women are more likely to participate than single women, and that the presence of children under the age of six hinders the participation of women in higher prestige occupations. This paper uses Annual Social and Economic Supplement data and prestige scales to analyze changes in the relative importance of occupations that women have held over time. Results indicate that, during the period covered in this analysis, women’s participation in the labor force and their position in the occupational structure have improved substantially, and that these trends are partially explained by their investment in education. However, the rearing of children and household maintenance activities still slow the development of their potential.

Honors Thesis Committee

Maria Aysa-Lastra, Ph.D.; Katie Knop, Ph.D.; and Ty Miller, Ph.D.

Start Date

24-4-2020 12:00 AM

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Apr 24th, 12:00 AM

Women's Labor Force Participation and Occupational Prestige in the United States: 1968 – 2018

This research centers on the evolution of U.S. women’s labor force participation and the prestige of their occupations from 1968 to 2018. Occupational prestige qualifies the social standing of each occupation in the labor force. Previous literature recognizes that women’s labor force participation has significantly increased since the late 1960s due to cultural and historical changes, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the prevalence of war in the United States. However, few sources in the literature focus on the prestige of the occupations that women held, which raises the question of how the occupational prestige of women’s employment has changed since 1968. Based on the literature, it is expected to find that white women are more likely than non-white women to increase their participation in higher prestige occupations, that married women are more likely to participate than single women, and that the presence of children under the age of six hinders the participation of women in higher prestige occupations. This paper uses Annual Social and Economic Supplement data and prestige scales to analyze changes in the relative importance of occupations that women have held over time. Results indicate that, during the period covered in this analysis, women’s participation in the labor force and their position in the occupational structure have improved substantially, and that these trends are partially explained by their investment in education. However, the rearing of children and household maintenance activities still slow the development of their potential.