Progress in American Women’s Well-Being Stalled in Recent Generations, Analysis Finds

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 — The level of well-being of young American women rose significantly for members of the Baby Boom generation but hit a wall in generations that followed, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) concludes in a landmark new report.  

In a PRB Population Bulletin, “Losing Ground: Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations in the United States,” analysts present a comprehensive new Index of Young Women’s Well-Being (covering ages 16 to 34). The results show how social and structural barriers to progress for young women in Generation X and the Millennial generation have contributed to women’s persistently high poverty rates, a declining share of women in high-wage/high-tech jobs, a dramatic rise in women’s incarceration rates, and increases in maternal mortality and women’s suicide.

View the full report, a summary video and an infographic at:

Momentum has stalled or reversed on several key measures of well-being:

  • The proportion of women ages 30 to 34 living in poverty increased to about 17 percent for the Millennial generation from about 12 percent for Generation X.
  • Young women in Generation X faced higher rates of maternal mortality than women of the Baby Boom, and rates are even higher for Millennial women.
  • About 1 in 4 workers in high-paying STEM occupations were women in Generation X, but this has fallen to 1 in 5 for Millennials.
  • The suicide rate for young women in the Millennial generation increased to 6.3 per 100,000 from 4.4 per 100,000 in Generation X.
  • Women’s incarceration rates have grown 10-fold between the World War II generation and Millennial generation.

The PRB analysts also identified several positive trends for young women, even though these did not outweigh the negative trends in the overall index:

  • Educational attainment has increased: Women’s high school dropout rate has fallen over time, while the share of women with at least a bachelor’s degree has increased.
  • The gender gaps in earnings and in business ownership persist but have narrowed from one generation to the next.
  • The teen birth rate is at an historic low.
  • The share of young women who are smoking has dropped sharply among Generation X and Millennials compared with previous generations.
  • The female homicide rate has fallen in each generation since the Baby Boom.
  • While women remain underrepresented in Congress and in state legislatures, their share of legislators has increased with each successive generation.

“While some measures are improving, overall the index paints a picture of lost momentum. Too many women lack the resources and supportive environments they need to live healthier lives and achieve their full potential,” said Beth Jarosz, a senior research associate at PRB and co-author of the Bulletin.

“The share of women with bachelor’s degrees is at an all-time high, but these educational gains have not led to similar gains in the workforce or in political leadership,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of PRB’s U.S. Programs department and a co-author of the Bulletin.

Join the conversation on Twitter at: #WomenLosingGround

About the Population Reference Bureau: The Population Reference Bureau informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations.

PRB Contact: Peter Goldstein, tel. 1.202.939.5407; email:

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SOURCE Population Reference Bureau

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