The retreat from work among men is a topic of great concern for scholars and policymakers. And for good reason: over the past fifty years, the prime-age male employment rate declined by ten percentage points. While men’s employment rates have been dropped in many countries, a drop on this scale is unique to the U.S.

But the story on women’s work is just as important – indeed, arguably more so. In recent years, there has been a reduction in paid work among U.S. women, one that is not paralleled in other advanced nations. Getting more women into the labor market is perhaps an even higher priority than raising male employment rates.

The three main motivations for increasing employment rates are to close skill gaps, boost growth, and cut poverty. In each case, there are good reasons to focus on women’s work.

  1. More working women would narrow the skills gap
  2. More working women would boost growth
  3. More working women would cut child poverty

Too often, discussions about employment proceed on the unchallenged basis that male employment rates matter more than female ones. But it is far from obvious why that should be the case. Getting more women into work is just as important – and perhaps more so.

Read more about women in the workplace by Eleanor Krause and Richard V. Reeves at Brookings.