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Expand chart
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

American women are more educated than ever, but in a surprising twist, the workforce participation rate for women has plateaued and even fallen over the past few years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Why it matters: If more women joined the workforce, that would help promote economic growth and help pay for the Social Security and Medicare needs of the large, retiring Boomer generation.

There are a few theories about this:

  • It could be a result of generational shifts: Women are beginning their careers later. And older people are retiring earlier in the U.S. than in places like Canada, economist Diane Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told Axios.
  • Some economists and researchers point to a lack of generous family leave or child care assistance policies as a reason the rate of working women has fallen behind other nations, said Lisa Barrow, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve in Chicago. Ivanka Trump has made this her signature issue.

By the numbers: Women with a bachelor's, master's or professional degree are still less likely to be working than men with the same education level, according to BLS.

  • Less educated women are worst off: Workforce participation rates have fallen the most and wages have risen the least among women with only a high school diploma or less, Schanzenbach said.

The big picture: The U.S. used to be a global leader for female workforce participation. But the U.K., Canada and even Japan are now ahead, according to World Bank data.

The bottom line: The gender gap in the U.S. workforce is still a big problem — and it will be harder to maintain economic growth and sustain a large, retired generation if it isn't closed.

Go deeper

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

51 mins ago - World

Top general: China's hypersonic missile test "very close" to a "Sputnik moment"

Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China's test of a hypersonic missile is "very concerning" and "very close" to the kind of "Sputnik moment" that triggered the Space Race during the Cold War.

Why it matters: The comments by America's top uniformed general underscore the depths of U.S. concerns about China's rapid military expansion and development of advanced weaponry.

Climate reckoning for oil and gas CEOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell will face a reckoning on Capitol Hill Thursday, as they're grilled on evidence that their companies knew for years that their products were driving climate change but chose to downplay or deny it.

Why it matters: The hearing before the House Oversight Committee will be the first time these executives have been brought together to provide sworn testimony regarding what they knew about the ties between their company's products and climate change, and when they knew it.