US Department of Labor on Menstruation

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On May 29 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted this on the platform formerly known as Twitter:

fig01 DOL tweet menstruation US Department of Labor on Menstruation

This is empirically wrong in many dimensions. DOL has botched basic arithmetic. For this exercise, I’ll use 2022 labor force data[1] from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, part of the labor department). (Click here to download my Excel workbook. Note that I only worked with Table 3.1.)

Start with some basics. In 2022 the U.S. labor force (age 16 and older) was 170.7 million. Of that total, 78.9 million were women. That’s 46.8%, not the 50% implicitly assumed by DOL.

Next, let’s look at the female part of the labor force. One difficulty is that BLS uses 10 year age brackets. I’ll deal with that soon. But first, let’s do the easy part:

fig02 women with highlights US Department of Labor on Menstruation

(click for larger image)

Let me break that down. The sum of the 16-24, 25-34, and 35-44 is 44.0 million (yellow highlight). (Numbers in the Excel workbook are in thousands.)

Next, not all women menstruate. There are two reasons for this: pre-puberty and menopause. Since DOL says you can only be in the labor force if you’re 16 or over, pre-puberty girls are pretty much excluded. That leaves menopause.

According to VeryWellHealth.com, the average age for the onset of menopause is 52. Unfortunately, the age bracket for that group is 45 to 54. That’s 10 years. Age 52 is 0.8 of the time between 45 and 54. The 45-54 group is 15.2 million. Assume equal numbers of each age. That means the 45-52 group has 15.2 x 0.8 = 12.2 million (blue highlight). Adding 44.0 million gives 56.2 million menstruating women in the labor force (pink highlight). That’s 73.1% of all women in the labor force (green highlight).[2]

The implication is clear. Women are 46.8% of the labor force. Of that 46.8%, 73.1% menstruate. For the overall labor force, the percentage who menstruate is 46.8% x 73.1% = 34.2% (beige highlight). The DOL should talk to BLS more often before they turn things over to the public relations department.

  1. I’m using 2022 because that’s pretty recent and it’s not worth my time to track down the 2023 data (which may not even be available). Anyone who wants to find the 2023 data can forward me the link and I’ll happily repeat this exercise with full credit to the source.
  2. Those figures are still too high. There are many women in the 16-52 age group who do not menstruate due to hysterectomies, endometriosis, and many other illnesses.
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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.

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