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Changing Trends in the Labor Force: A Survey

The composition of the American workforce has changed dramatically over the past half century as a result of both the emergence of married women as a substantial component of the labor force and an increase in the number of minority workers. The aging of the population has contributed to this change as well. In this paper, the authors review the evidence of changing labor force participation rates, estimate the trends in labor force participation over the past 50 years, and find that aggregate participation has stabilized after a period of persistent increases. Moreover, they examine the disparate labor force participation experiences of different demographic groups. Finally, they survey some of the studies that have provided explanations for these differences.

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