The significant difference in the sizes of the two birth cohorts—the baby boomers and the group that followed them—has had and will continue to have a pronounced effect on the age distribution of the workforce. Over the past decade, for example, there has been an absolute decline in the number of workers in the labor force under age 25 (Figure 3-1). Conversely, the most significant workforce growth during the 1990s has been among workers 25 to 54 years of age, reflecting the aging of the baby boom generation.


Women’s share of the workforce has been increasing for several decades as their pattern of labor force activity more and more mirrors that of men. Thus, women increasingly enter the labor force at a young age and become permanent labor force participants. As a consequence of this long-range change, women’s share of the labor force has been growing steadily. However, in the most recent decade growth has slowed, reflecting the fact that the women’s share of the labor force has already reached significant proportions. Women’s share of the labor force had by 1998 grown to nearly 46 percent.

A related change in women’s labor force participation has been that, increasingly, women with children have been working. Women were formerly well represented in the labor force before they had children or after their children had completed school. That is no longer true, as shown in Table 3-1, which indicates that the labor force participation of women

FIGURE 3-1 Age of civilian labor force, 1988 and 1998 (see Table 3-4 for sources).

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