Strange Days for the Man of the House:
In the above article recently published in Huffington Post, psychologist Dr. Peggy Drexler talks about the demographics of the current recession and its effect on family dynamics and gender relationships.
Her article is based on the fact that men lost over 70% of the total jobs lost during this Great Recession. She believes that such a shift in the demographics of the work force might indicate a change in the way men and women relate to each other.
She writes in part:
And so, the recession drags on. Nobody feels it more oppressively and relentlessly than the men who have been cast out of all those industries they called their own.
In downturns past, there was always the certainty that, as nasty as things are right now, this too shall pass....
But, for men, and the power they've assumed as a right of gender, this one is different. ... Normal is a new and, for many, very confusing place.
Laws and changing times have conspired for decades to siphon off male power. Women got rights that had long been denied. Place in society became less a matter of force and position than information and communication. Pick a measure -- education, managerial jobs -- and women, in most cases, have blown past parity and assumed the lead.
Add in a recession where 75 percent of the job losses were by men, and there are implications at every point where genders meet -- from the conference room to the bedroom. One of the murkiest of implications, however, is in the living room. What happens to the power structure of families that for centuries has been built -- at least in the confines of their castle -- around the supremacy of an alpha male?
But more men are returning to work!
The article is interesting for any of us who care about family dynamics, but it is based on an invalid assumption: Yes, more men lost jobs during the first two years of the recession. But since jobs have started to return (and they are still returning, despite the recent economic chaos), men have returned to the work force in much greater numbers than women.
Over five million men lost jobs from 2007 to the bottom of the recession in late 2009. Over two million women lost jobs during that time frame.
88% of the people who have returned to work are men!
But over one million men have returned to work (1,357,000 men according to the the July BLS numbers) whereas only 179,000 women have returned to work. That means that 88% of the people who have returned to work are men, not women.
I wrote an article about Who Got the Jobs? back in May, looking at April numbers. I noted that, while black people as a whole only gained one thousand "real" jobs in unadjusted numbers in April, black men actually gained jobs at the expense of black women. Black women over the age of 20 lost 76,000 jobs in April; black men over the age of 20 gained 53,000 jobs.
When this recession started, about 53.5% of working people over 20 were men, and about 46.5% were women. The percent of people working who were men dropped down to 52.79% in December 2009, with the percent of people working who were women nudging over 47%.
But now as of July, the numbers are much as they were before: Of the people over 20 who are working, 53.19% are men, and 46.81% are women.
New family dynamics? Not so fast!
So don't obsess too much about the "new family" and the new "role of men". There is a good chance the percentage of men working is going to go back up to where it was before this recession. But with jobs paying less and less, there is also a good chance that more women will have to stay in the job market: Out of necessity, which is why most women with children have returned to the work force.
Let's not forget why women work:
There are many reasons why women work, and many love their careers and enjoy the prestige and money that comes with being a manager, a high-powered attorney, a physician, or a college professor. But many women don't have those kinds of jobs. They work service level, blue, white, or pink collar jobs.. because they have to.
(My figures are taken from BLS Employment Situation reports. Specifics available upon request.)