Sep 22, 2023 - News

More new moms are working in Northwest Arkansas

Data: U.S. Census; Note: Includes women ages 16 to 50; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The percentage of Northwest Arkansas women who recently gave birth and remain part of the workforce grew in 2022 after dropping for the previous three years, per new census data.

Why it matters: Motherhood often knocks women out of the labor force — at least temporarily — slowing their career and earnings growth and contributing to the gender pay gap.

By the numbers: 65.7% of Northwest Arkansas women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were in the labor force as of 2022, per the latest American Community Survey data.

  • That's compared to 51.4% in 2021 and 63.1% in 2010.

The big picture: Nationally, the percentage of women who recently gave birth and remained in the workforce reached a decade-plus, high-water mark last year.

  • 66.6% of U.S. women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were in the labor force as of 2022.
  • That number was 66.5% in 2021 and 61.6% in 2010.

Driving the news: Remote and flexible work is helping new moms juggle both parenting and their careers, Axios' Emily Peck has reported. (In fact, the workplace gender gap is at a record low.)

  • That's true for new dads, too, although women tend to take on more of the work/life priority changes brought on by parenthood.

Between the lines: One complicating factor in all of this: the skyrocketing cost of child care, which is driven in part by a lack of supply and low caretaker pay.

As care grows more expensive, more and more families find themselves deciding if it makes sense for both parents to work or for one to stay home with the kids.

  • Often, it's mothers who wind up staying home — in part because they likely earn less.

Yes, and: Vital pandemic-era federal funding for child-care centers is about expired, likely deepening the affordability crisis as supply is further outstripped by demand.

  • 70,000 child-care centers — looking after 3.2 million children — may close when that funding runs out, according to one widely cited estimate from The Century Foundation, Emily reports.

What we're watching: Whether this trend continues into the fully post-pandemic years.

  • Some employers are desperately trying to get workers back to the office but are finding mixed success, as many employees embrace a lifestyle that affords better flexibility — whether to raise a family, pursue a hobby or simply avoid a stressful commute.
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