Thursday, March 21, 2013

Men losing ground

"The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research" (NY Times, March 20). That economist, David Autor, is certainly a far better economist than I am, but I have some doubts about this explanation for the declining fortunes of guys.

For one thing, some of the most dramatic "symptoms" of men falling behind women are nearly universal global phenomena, not just the product of U.S. cultural trends. Women's college enrollment has caught up and surpassed men's in most countries, and this includes countries that do not on the face of it share the social and cultural trends blamed here. As I wrote in a letter to the editor I submitted to the Times:
The argument that cultural trends, such as rising single parenthood, explain why women are now much more likely to attend college than men must address the fact that the reversal of the gender gap in higher education is a global phenomenon (“Study of Men’s Falling Income,” March 20). According to the World Bank, in 2010 female tertiary enrollment exceeded that of males by 8 percent globally; whereas in 1980 women were 17% less likely than men to be in college. A wide range of countries and cultures participated in this trend: it is very similar whether one restricts the sample to Europe, or to East Asian and Pacific countries, or to the Middle East and North Africa. Are all of these places “coming apart”?
For another thing, single parenthood and absent fathers are, as Professor Autor would teach his students, "endogenous" to inequality trends (causality runs both ways). Or, as Christopher Jencks puts it at the end of the news article: “Single-parent families tend to emerge in places where the men already are a mess... You have to ask yourself, ‘Suppose the available men were getting married to the available women? Would that be an improvement?’ ”

"Instead of making marriage more attractive, he said, it might be better for society to help make men more attractive."

Good luck with that.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that was tried during the "metrosexual" movement... and Ricky Martin did his part... all to no avail... and then new role models like Charlie Sheen attained national prominence...