Why Participation Rates Differ: A Study of Black and White Wives.

by Duran Bell

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Analyzes labor force participation of black and white wives by family and personal characteristics, using a sample of 8,148 couples aged 18 to 65 from the 1967 Survey of Economic Opportunity. In 1966, 61.4 percent of the black wives worked, 75 percent fulltime; the figures for whites were 46.7 percent and 60 percent. (Both were up 32 percent in 1970.) Fulltime work was commoner among black wives in better educated, more stable families, and among white wives in less educated, poorer, unstable families. The reverse applied to part-time employment, presumably because most of the black part-timers were domestics and most white part-timers were secretaries. Greater employment of black mothers of small children reflects the families' long-term need for the mothers' earnings. Results differ dramatically from earlier studies, reflecting both the opening of middle-class jobs to qualified black women and availability of public child support as an alternative to domestic service. Strong sexist barriers to the high-status employment of women explains the relatively low participation of upper-middle-class white wives. (For the [Journal of Human Resources].) 32 pp. Ref.

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