Could a post-Roe world push even more women out of the workforce?


As advocates of abortion rights raised concerns about the economic power of women in light of the possible reversal of the Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade, women accounted for 65% of the 428,000 new jobs added to the economy in April, according to Friday’s employment report.

A question mark in the April employment report is what to do about reducing the U.S. workforce for the first time in seven months. Is the lower labor force participation rate (the percentage of people aged 16 and over who have a job or are looking for work) a mistake? Or is it something else?

An even bigger question is what happens to this rate of women’s labor participation if the high court overturns Roe, the 1973 ruling recognizing the constitutional right to abortion. How many women will remain in the workforce if access to abortion is restricted to their state, and what would that mean for their income potential?

A leaked draft of the long-awaited verdict expected in June or July shows that the Conservative wing of the high court is ready to overturn Roe. and delivering decisions on access to abortion to state legislators and voters. The Supreme Court confirmed that the draft document was authentic, but said it did not represent a final decision.

Advocates for abortion rights say Roe’s repeal would have “devastating” financial consequences for many women, especially low-income women and women of color. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April, 62.2% of the country’s population aged 16 and over who could find work were working or looking for work. This is a 62.4% drop in March and more than one full percentage point from pre-pandemic levels.

In an economy that still has 1.2 million jobs below where it was before the pandemic, participation rates for men and women have not returned completely for either group.
The male participation rate was 69% in February 2020 and 68% in the latest labor figures. The female participation rate was 56.7% in April, 1.2 percentage points from the 57.9% rate in February 2020.

According to Federal Reserve research, care duties, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, have “substantially weighed” labor force participation, especially for women.

Women accounted for 278,000 of new jobs in April and had an overall unemployment rate of 3.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the long run, women’s labor force participation rates rose for decades, but peaked in the late 1990s and early and mid-2000s at around 60% before declining.

In the pile of amicus briefs in the underlying Supreme Court case challenging the Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeks, economists backing Roe’s defense wrote that “the legalization of abortion had great effects on women’s education, labor force participation, employment and income. These effects were especially strong among black women. “

During the 1970s and 1980s, access to abortion and contraception “had a direct impact on increased participation of women in the workforce,” said Kate Bahn, director of labor market policies and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-wing research and nonprofit grant.

“Limiting bodily autonomy is bad for people who have babies and are the main caregivers, bad for human rights and bad for the economy.”


– Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth

But would lack of access to abortion mean fewer women in the workforce now? Bahn, who says Roe must stay intact, has her doubts.

“I’m not sure we’ll see this effect on participation in the workforce, but I think we’ll see an effect on exactly where women work,” she said. “It may not necessarily affect the decision to work. But it remains to be seen.”

Places where women could work more and more, however, would be poorly paid jobs with less chance of upward mobility if they are juggling a child from an unplanned pregnancy, she said. In a 2019 article, Bahn looked at the economic side effects of recent state laws restricting abortion. Her research found that the laws of the most restrictive states reduced the chances of women moving to a well-paid job by 7.6%.

“Limiting bodily autonomy is bad for people who have babies and are the primary caregivers, bad for human rights and for the economy,” Bahn told MarketWatch.

Roe’s investment could be “potentially devastating,” said C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington-based think tank earlier this week. “It will also dramatically affect women’s ability to participate fully in the U.S. economy by reducing their share of the workforce, reducing their income, and increasing their turnover.”

Joel Griffith, a researcher at the Conservative Heritage Foundation, sees it differently, given the downward trend that was happening for women. If Roe’s turnaround has any impact on women’s labor participation in one way or another, he said, it will be marginal. “This is likely to have little, if any, impact,” Griffith said.

The work of independent and concert contractors may not “appear perfectly in traditional work numbers.”


– Patrice Onwuka, Director of the Center for Economic Opportunities at the Independent Women’s Forum

If the final Supreme Court ruling sounds like a draft, it would be a “win for federalism,” said Patrice Onwuka, director of the Independent Women’s Forum’s Ecological Opportunities Center, a think tank that supports a limited government.

The organization does not have a position on abortion, Onwuka said. Still, the draft opinion serves as “an important reminder that voters should decide what’s going on in their state, not the federal government doing a federal policy that affects everyone,” he said.

With or without state laws on access to abortion, official government figures on labor force participation may not be capturing the full scope of the work that women do while juggling motherhood and childbirth. income, he added.

“Some women don’t want to work full time. “They don’t want to work in a traditional W-2 job,” said Onwuka. “That doesn’t mean they don’t have an income. It’s about independence, and I think that’s something we should celebrate.”



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