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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Men, a series

Last weekend I went to our church Men’s Weekend.  This is part religious retreat, part bonding experience. There were 30 men, from their 20’s to their 70’s.

We’ve been doing this not quite 20 years.  A recurrent theme is what is means to be a man in today’s world. This is a topic I have familiarity with, if not expertise, so I thought I’d occasionally blog on this.

Job Pride

Because I found it today, I want to start out with a startling statistic, reblogged from David Brooks and Tyler Cowen:

As my colleague David Leonhardt pointed out recently, in 1954, about 96 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today that number is around 80 percent. One-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work.

According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has a smaller share of prime age men in the work force than any other G-7 nation. The number of Americans on the permanent disability rolls, meanwhile, has steadily increased. Ten years ago, 5 million Americans collected a federal disability benefit. Now 8.2 million do. That costs taxpayers $115 billion a year, or about $1,500 per household. Government actuaries predict that the trust fund that pays for these benefits will run out of money within seven years.

One of the key ways in which men define themselves is by what they do, how they earn their living, what kind of provider they are. But if 1 in 5 isn’t employed, 1 in 5 doesn’t have this particular source of manly pride.

80% also means there are likely to be a substantial increase in those who are underemployed as well, but that’s harder to measure.

This is only economically possible because there are more women working. In fact, with the shift from manufacturing / manual labor to a service economy less dependent on physical strength, most jobs can be done by either men or women. That’s certainly true of marketing research and teaching, the two jobs I am most familiar with.