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Mr. Mom and the Mancession

By January 10, 2012Blog
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The nation is supposedly in an economic recovery period; some are calling it the post-“Great Recession.”  Others are calling this time a “mancession,” because the trends are defying the norms of gender roles, child rearing, and employment trends.  Oddly, the new domestic realities here in the U.S. are global trends existing in most of the developed countries.  While these new changes – including gender shifts – are troubling here in our country, other nations are facing far more complex ramifications.  For example, in Japan, women face an increased burden as breadwinners, giving young women less incentive to marry and have children in a country that already has the fastest-aging population in the world.

According to the Pew Research Center, “From December 2007 to May 2011, the employment of men has decreased from 70.7 million to 66.1 million, or by 4.6 million. For women, employment has fallen from 67.3 million to 64.9 million, or by 2.4 million. Thus, while men have taken an early lead in the recovery, they still have far more ground to cover than women to return to pre-recession employment levels.”

The U.S. Census Bureau provides corroboration, “one in three fathers with working wives is now a regular source of care for their children, the number of dads regularly caring for children age 15 and under increased from 26% in 2002 to 32% in 2010, and one-fifth of fathers with preschool-age children now serve as the primary caregiver.”

To put it in laymen’s terms, as Dr. Mark J. Perry, professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, notes, “Despite the recent job gains for men since early 2010, the Great Recession has still had a disproportionately and significantly negative effect on men compared to women, and it’s not even close: For every 100 jobs lost by women since January 2008, men have lost 192 jobs, so it’s still very much of a ‘mancession,’ despite the recent ‘hecovery’” (emphasis mine).

Statisticians and economists aren’t the only ones focusing on the recent gender role changes; the media and entertainment industries have brought the issue into America’s homes with TV shows like NBC’s “Up All Night,” a series about a professional woman, her supportive stay-at-home husband, and the adjustments they make with the birth of their new baby.  Then there’s ABC’s “Work It,” which debuted January 3, 2012, and “centers on two unemployed men who believe that the current economic recession and job shortage affect men more than it does women.  Lee Standish then decides to apply for a job at Coreco Pharmaceuticals dressed as a woman and is hired.  Character development, starting in the first episode, involves the guys learning how to be more ‘sensitive.'”

Even the retail fashion industry has recognized the ramifications of the current “mancession” with the launch of a National Suit Drive by specialty retail giant Men’s Wearhouse, which collected over 102,000 items of donated professional clothing and matched each of the 22,746 suit donations with a new dress shirt and tie to help men “suit up” for job interviews in an attempt to offset the “mancession.”

Such are the trends as feminists celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ms Magazine.  Seeing men emasculated by these cultural trends reminds us of our frequent warnings about predictable unintended consequences of public policy and cultural changes.

Our guest blogger today is Elizabeth Waller.  Elizabeth serves as a research fellow for Concerned Women for America‘s Beverly LaHaye Institute.