The proportion of U.S. adults in paid work has declined in recent decades. While the fall in male employment gets the most attention, female work rates are declining too. A new NBER paper from Katharine Abraham and Melissa Kearney provides a comprehensive review and rigorous analysis of the overall trends, and potential contributory factors including trade, technology, weak demand, and an aging population to name a few
Abraham and Kearney suggest that other factors are likely playing a role, too, which are impossible to quantify. These include changes in the social norms around paid work and “improvements in leisure technology” (read: Rainbow Six Siege and other awesome games). Note that their preferred measure of labor market activity is the employment-to-population ratio (see Eleanor Krause and Isabel Sawhill’s guide for a quick explanation of the different employment metrics).