The ‘man’ factor

Until I heard American Public Media’s Marketplace on Friday evening, I had no idea that the economic downturn and the resulting unemployment is falling disproportionately on men.

Men make up 82 percent of the total number of people eliminated from the country’s workforce and for the first time, women are poised to pass men in the majority, according to the New York Times.

“Given how stark and concentrated the job losses are among men, and that women represented a high proportion of the labor force in the beginning of this recession, women are now bearing the burden — or the opportunity, one could say — of being breadwinners,” says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, told the newspaper.

It is a huge societal shift with changing roles.

“Oh yeah, of course. For a while there we were calling him the man maid, because he was doing all the house work while I worked,” Michelle Tully, whose husband, Stephen, is laid-off.

As recently as 2005, the unemployment rates for men and women were about equal, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only in the early ’80s have they varied much.


Still, women are likely to make less money, work fewer hours, and have no benefits in their soon-to-be workplace majority.

The situation, meanwhile, is setting up an interesting political debate as Congress considers President Obama’s stimulus package. If men are bearing the brunt of unemployment, should the economic stimulus favor men?

“Absent efforts to increase worker diversity in infrastructure-related jobs — this could lead to a shift of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from women to men,” Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO. said in a letter to President Obama last month.