When women leave work—even for just a year, as many mothers are considering now—their long-term earning potential plummets. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducted a study that found the earnings over time of women who took just a year off work between 2001 and 2015 were 39% lower than those of women who didn’t take time off. The exit of large numbers of women from the workforce is bad not just for individual women and their families. It’s bad for the economy as a whole, because women had surpassed men to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce earlier this year before the pandemic hit. (They dropped from 50.04% to 49.70% in the wake of this year’s job cuts.)

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