Nov 7, 2023 - News

San Antonio has fewer new moms in the workforce

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

More mothers across the country are returning to the workforce within a year of giving birth. But not in San Antonio.

Driving the news: The percentage of San Antonio metro area women who recently gave birth and are participating in the workforce has dropped in recent years, per recent Census Bureau data.

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

By the numbers: 56.8% of San Antonio-area women who gave birth in the previous 12 months participated in the labor force in 2022, per the latest American Community Survey data.

  • The rate was 60.5% in 2021, and 61.7% in 2019.

The intrigue: Among major Texas metros, San Antonio has the lowest percentage of women who recently gave birth and are in the workforce.

Zoom out: Nationally, the percentage of women who recently gave birth and are participating in the workforce reached a decade-plus high mark last year.

  • 66.6% of U.S. women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were participating in the labor force as of 2022.
  • The rate was 61.6% in 2010.

The big picture: Remote and flexible work is making it easier for new moms to juggle parenting and their careers, Axios' Emily Peck reports.

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

  • More and more families are put in the difficult position of deciding whether it makes sense for both parents to work, or for one to stay home and watch the kids.
  • Often, it's mothers who wind up staying home — in part because of the gender pay gap.

Zoom in: Since San Antonio's median household income tends to be lower than that of other areas, a lack of affordable child care likely contributes to fewer new moms in the workforce, Lloyd Potter, Texas state demographer and professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, tells Axios.

  • It might not make sense for women earning at or near minimum wage to return to work if child care will cost as much as their earnings.
  • San Antonio is also a young city, Potter says. New mothers who are early in their careers might not have the same benefits or flexibility at work as those who have been in the workforce longer.
  • In addition, San Antonio lacks a large remote workforce that other cities like Austin have.

What they're saying: An increase in new working mothers would lead to higher household income in San Antonio, Potter tells Axios.

  • "Most economists would think that having women return to the labor force and working would be a net economic benefit for the region," Potter says.
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