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No return of single-income family

Although Richard Hokenson offers an interesting theory about why the labor force participation rates of young women have been wobbling since the late 1980s, his theory is unlikely to be accurate (``Young Women Exercise Options,'' May 24).

If, as he argues, the zigzagging labor force participation rates for women ages 20 to 24 is due to a return to the single-income family, one would expect this change to have affected only married women in this age group. But this is not the case. The same wobble is seen among single and divorced women ages 20 to 24 - women who do not have a husband's paycheck to rely on.

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There are more likely reasons for the change in labor force participation rates of young women: First, more of these women are opting for continued schooling instead of labor force participation - the number of young adults in school has climbed sharply since 1987. Second, because these young women (and men) were among the least experienced members of the labor force, they were most likely to have their employment prospects frustrated during the recent job slump.

Although many young people - like their older peers - continue to consider the single-earner family the ideal, there is little, if any, evidence that they are any more able than their older brothers and sisters were to turn this wish into reality. Christine D. Keen, Washington

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