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December 1983, Vol. 106, No. 12
Labor force statistics
from a family perspective
"As are families so is society...If well ordered, well instructed, and well governed, they are springs from which go forth the streams of national greatness and prosperityof civil order and public happiness."1
Families are the basic unit of American society that provide the country with its current labor supply and mold the character of its future workers. But, in contrast to the "well ordered," ideal state described above, family life is more often depicted as in flux or crisis. This has been especially true of the years following World War II, during which families changed from an extended to a nuclear structure, moved from a rural to an urban setting, and adjusted from wartime pressures to periods of peacetime prosperity or recession.
In 1940, a monthly sample survey was initiated to measure changes in the characteristics of the Nation's labor force.2 This article draws on the results of that survey to present a historical perspective on the labor market activities of family members. Subsequent sections review recent developments in survey procedures that permit the tracking of broad secular trends and of business-cycle effects on family employment and income, and suggest future directions for family-oriented economic analyses.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 1983 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 William Makepeace Thayer, American author, 1820-1898, as quoted in Ralph Emerson Browns, ed., The New American Dictionary of Thoughts (New York, Standard Book Co., 1957), p. 204.
2 The survey referred to is the Current Population Survey (CPS). Detailed information about the survey's background, concepts, and reliability is published in "Labor Force, Employment, and Unemployment from the Current Population Survey," Handbook of Methods, Volume I, Bulletin 2134-1 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1982).
Unless otherwise indicated, labor forces data in this report were obtained from the CPS.
Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Related Monthly Labor Review articles
American families: 75 years of change—Mar. 1990.
Family members in the work force.—Mar. 1990.
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