Labor force basics

The census data allows us to extract labor force participation. The graph below shows the labor force participation per age. Labor force participation was generally not marked for those under the age of 16, though after that labor force participation rose rapidly. Unsurprisingly, the main working population was between 20 to 50 years old. After about age 63, the number of people not in the labor force exceeded the number in the labor force.

Line graph showing labor force participation

We can also consider labor force participation for urban vs. rural populations by age, as shown in the pyramid graph below:

Pyramid graph showing urban and rural labor force participation

In this graph, the vertical axis shows the age (in 5-year intervals starting from 16 at the bottom), while the horizontal axis presents in percentage of each group as a proportion of the total urban or rural labor force. We can see that the age distribution was not dramatically different by urban vs. rural, though in general, the labor force participation rate of the rural population was slightly higher (around 50.41% for all ages) than the labor force participation rate of urban (48.83% for all ages.)

Women participated in the labor force far less than men – unsurprising for 1920 – and their participation clustered around the ages of 16-25, probably before marriage and/or before kids. After 65 women’s labor force participation rose again, perhaps because of widowhood.

Bar graph of women and men in the labor force by age