Are Men Now Permanently Less Employable Than Women?

Kevin Drum, writing in Mother Jones (“Men Without Work“), argues that we may be “entering not merely a slow recovery in general, but an era in which the male employment ratio hovers permanently around 80% even for those in their prime working years.”

Here’s how he arrives at that speculation. First, he cites a book called Edge City by Joel Garreau, who explains why 1978 was such a pivotal year in the development of suburbs and in the transformation of the gender aspects of employment:

… 1978 was the peak year in all of American history for women entering the work force. In the second half of the 1970s, unprecedentedly, more than eight million hitherto non-wage-earning women went out and found jobs. The spike year was 1978.

That same year, a multitude of developers independently decided to start putting up big office buildings out beyond the traditional male-dominated downtown….The new advantage was proximity to the emerging work force … A decade later, developers viewed it as a truism that office buildings had an indisputable advantage if they were located near the best-educated, most conscientious, most stable workers — underemployed females living in middle class communities on the fringes of the old urban areas.

Drum also cites Don Peck in The Atlantic (“How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America“):

The weight of this recession has fallen most heavily upon men, who’ve suffered roughly three-quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008. Male-dominated industries (construction, finance, manufacturing) have been particularly hard-hit, while sectors that disproportionately employ women (education, health care) have held up relatively well.

….According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the gender imbalance of the job losses in this recession is particularly noteworthy, and — when combined with the depth and duration of the jobs crisis — poses “a profound challenge to marriage,” especially in lower-income communities. It may sound harsh, but in general, he says, “if men can’t make a contribution financially, they don’t have much to offer.”

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2 Responses to “Are Men Now Permanently Less Employable Than Women?”
  1. depelton says:

    Hm … the late seventies early eighties was about the time that my wife and I permanently gave up the idea of “sharing the breadwinning” (in which we would each work part-time to support our family of four, our vision of perfect gender equality) and accepted that we would both be working full-time for the long haul (which, come to think of it, has also been perfect gender equality).

    That was also about the time that the war on the middle class began in earnest, marked famously by Reagan’s firing of the air-traffic controllers, and continued under Clinton with the insane trade policies that have led to the disastrous reduction in US manufacturing.

    That was also just about the precise moment in our history when rising worker productivity for the first time did not lead to an increase in worker real-wages, but led instead to a significant increase in inequality, and — with the dismantling of banking regulations — to a succession of economic bubble crises, the bottom of the most recent of which we are still approaching with agonizing slowness.


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