So who is dropping out, and why?
Primarily the declines since 2001 are among younger workers ages 16 to 24 and women ages 25 to 45. Proportionally, since the teens account for a small number of workers in the state, women dropouts are mainly driving the changes.
The change with young workers can be more easily explained. Most don’t have to work. When jobs are flush and pay well, more take jobs. If jobs are slim and pay tight, homework and hanging out win out. “If jobs aren’t readily available they are not going to be searching for them and calling themselves in the labor market,” Stinson said.
The reasons why women are leaving are more elusive.
Julie Hotchkiss, a research economist and policy adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, has studied why women leave the work force.
She found that women with college degrees were less likely to participate in the labor force in 2005 than they were just five years earlier. Women were still getting college degrees at the same rate but the degrees were less of a pull into the labor market.
The increase in Hispanic women, who traditionally are less likely to be in the labor force, is another factor, as is the increase in women with children under age 6. Still, “unobserved” factors that couldn’t be explained, more than anything else, contributed to the reasons why women are dropping out, she said.
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