As an ordinary life table follows a closed group from birth to the death of its last member, a labor force status life table follows a closed group through life and through the statuses “in the labor force” and “not in the labor force.” Using data from the January 1972 and January 1973 Current Population Surveys, two types of labor force status life tables were calculated for the United States, 1972. One type was a conventional working life table (for males) which started with an ordinary life table and partitioned the life table population into labor force statuses using age-specific proportions in the labor force. The other type was an increment-decrement table, prepared for both males and females, which was calculated so as to be consistent with the rates of labor force accession and separation implied by the data.
Increment-decrement labor force status life tables are generally preferable to conventional working life tables. They reflect the implications of a clearly specified set of behavioral rates, provide detailed measures of the flows between labor force statuses, do not introduce seriously biasing approximations into the calculation of summary measures of labor force experience, and can be applied to female data as easily as male data. In practice, incrementdecrement labor force status life tables can be calculated from current and retrospective data generated by a single labor force survey.
The increment-decrement labor force status life tables for the United States, 1972 reflected the extent to which the labor force participation of males exceeded that of females, but indicated that, on the average, half a woman’s lifetime between the ages of 16 and 65 was spent in the labor force. There were marked differences in the proportions, by age, of males and females in the labor force, with the male pattern rising to a single, flat peak and the female pattern being bimodal. Nonetheless, the two sexes shared similar age patterns in the proportions changing, or not changing, their labor force status.