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Why women quit working: It's not for the reasons men do

Patricia Cohen writes, "The go-to explanations for why so many men — even in their prime working years — have dropped out of the labor force do not apply to Krystin Stevenson.

At 31 with two children, she doesn’t turn her nose up at jobs that are considered women’s work. She hasn’t been swallowed by the wildfire of opioid addiction, dogged by a brush with the law or sidelined with a disability after years of heaving loads in manufacturing or construction.

Rather, she gave up her $40,000-a-year job as a customer service representative at a real estate firm in the summer of 2015 when her fragile support network collapsed. Her mother, a part-time home health care aide, took care of the children, picking up the older one from elementary school in the afternoon. But after she had a stroke, she was the one who needed to be taken care of, and Ms. Stevenson stepped in to manage her aging mother as well as her young children.

'I ended up just quitting my job,” said Ms. Stevenson, who lives outside Denver. “I was trying to work and help her, but the job wasn’t flexible.'

Ms. Stevenson is part of the growing percentage of Americans who are neither in a job nor hunting for one — a stubborn trend at the center of the deep dissatisfaction and anxiety about the economy’s future that helped catapult Donald J. Trump to the White House.

Unemployment rates are at postrecession lows — 4.7 percent in December — but that overall rebound masks what is happening in rural towns, seen-better-days Rust Belt centers and even otherwise thriving urban centers where people not in school or retired have nonetheless fallen off the employment map."

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