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Over Half of Women With Young Children Now Work

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In the 1960's and 1970's, a confluence of social and economic forces--including an open job market, inflation, a rising divorce rate, and the feminist movement--caused many women to enter or re-enter the workforce.

The rate of participation in the labor force of women aged 16 and over rose from 36 percent in 1960 to 52 percent in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Women with young or school-age children who in earlier years would have remained at home as housewives and mothers took jobs in greater numbers than ever before. Data from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that by 1980, the majority of mothers--some 54 percent--were working, an increase from 42 percent in 1970 and from 36 percent in 1960. In 1983, half of all mothers with children under 6 had full-time or part-time jobs, compared with only 18.6 percent in 1960 and 30.3 percent in 1970, according to the bureau.

Without Care

The Children's Defense Fund estimates that as many as 7 million children 13 years old or under may go without care for long parts of each day while their parents work. Between "2 to 4 million young children are left alone to fend for themselves for a significant portion of each day," according to Edward F. Zigler, professor of psychology and director of the Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University.

According to the General Mills American Family Report, 1981-82, some 65 percent of working parents with children at home had no child-care arrangements other than the care they provided themselves.

In 1978, more than 5 million children under the age of 13 were cared for by someone other than a parent for 30 or more hours per week. Some 56 percent of the day care was provided by non-relatives, and 69 percent took place away from the children's homes, according to a study by Richard R. Ruopp, president of Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

Child care, Mr. Ruopp predicts, will become a "major domestic policy issue" that will "reach crisis proportions by 1990" when there will be 6 million children under the age of 6, of whom 60 percent will have mothers in the labor force.--sr

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