The current issue of the Economist recognizes that the dramatic change in labor force participation of women is one of the most important transformations in the economic and social worlds during the past generation. I will discuss the main forces behind this change, and also consider whether the United States needs additional public policies to accommodate women at work.
Several crucial changes have contributed to transforming the position of women. Perhaps the most fundamental during the past half century were technological advances, such as the computer, and the shift in richer countries away from manufacturing and toward services. These developments put much greater emphasis on knowledge and information as opposed to physical strength and heavy work, which in turn greatly increased the importance of higher education.