Housing Complex

D.C. Lags Region in Working Women, But Is Making Progress

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The good news: The D.C. region has the highest female labor force participation of any large metropolitan area in the country.

The bad news: The District proper has the lowest percentage of working women in the region.

That's according to a new paper from George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. The D.C. area's 65 percent female labor participation rate as of 2010 makes us the envy of the country, although that figure has actually declined slightly, from 68.8 percent in 1990 and 67 percent in 2000. The New York area's rate is just 56.5 percent, while Los Angeles' is 56.8 and Chicago's is 59.3. (The female labor force participation rate is the percentage of women between the ages of 16 and 64 who are working or actively seeking employment.)

But here in the District, the female labor participation rate is a middling 63.6 percent. Compare that to Arlington's impressive 74.4 percent, Alexandria's 72.5 percent, and Prince George's County's 71.2 percent.

Still, that figure represents progress for the District, whose rate was only 60.2 percent in 2000. The percentage of Washingtonian women age 25 and older with a bachelor's degree also has increased hugely, from 30.9 percent in 1990 to 48.9 percent in 2010.

The report suggests that the gains in D.C. and Arlington might be attributable to the jurisdictions' walkability and appeal to young professionals. "It has been found that creative class and young professionals are increasingly clustering in dense, lively, pedestrian-friendly urban centers," the study states. "The District of Columbia and Arlington County have these characteristics and both experienced growth in female labor force participation, and gained the highest shares of educated female residents."

Graph from the CRA study

  • george

    Of course, the District also has the region's lowest male labor force participation rate, whatever that does for the interpretation.

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