The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
No One's Crying about the Decline of Men

The sorry state of the labor market could be deflating the marriageability of men and tearing at the social fabric of the American family. So argues Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post, and he claims that, with 496,000 people exiting the labor force since 2007, this problem will likely only get worse:

Even before the Great Recession, men with a high school diploma or less faced lower wages and a harder time finding work. This made them less attractive as husbands, contributing to the growth of single-parent families. Stubbornly high unemployment almost certainly aggravates these destructive trends.

In a paper for Third Way, a liberal think tank, economists David Autor and Melanie Wasserman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attribute the decline of marriage — which, like Murray, they say is concentrated among the poorly educated — to the eroding economic heft of men compared with women. Women are more independent economically; men are weaker. Marriage has lost much of its pecuniary pull.

Since 1979, inflation-adjusted hourly wages fell 20 percent for men ages 25–39 with only a high school diploma, while wages for their female counterparts rose by one percent. In the same timeframe, the number of male high school graduates with jobs fell by nine percent and rose for women by nine percent.

Part of this is due to the evaporation of jobs in industries that were previously filled by less educated men, like manufacturing and construction. But women have adapted much more quickly to a world in which a bachelor’s degree is increasingly important for landing a job. In 2010, among 35 year olds, women were 17 percent more likely than men to have attended college. Lower- and middle-class men lag behind women in their social class in education, employment, and wages.

If the gender roles were reversed here and a generation of women has suffered huge setbacks, we would have a great hue and cry with blue-ribbon panels, academic roundtables, and a lot of national soul-searching. But men’s problems don’t seem to interest anyone much, not even men.

Could that possibly be a mistake?

Published on April 16, 2013 4:41 pm
  • Stephen

    “If the gender roles were reversed…national soul-searching…haven’t seen…time for that to change.”

    Ah, but you forget that the sun will never set on the Empire of the Patriarchy.

    • http://twitter.com/ExactlyBackward Nick Bidler

      Was that sarcasm or serious? It’s hard to tell, these days.

      • Stephen

        I’m an academic, Nick. I can’t afford to be anything but serious when it comes to matters of gender, class, and race. ;-)

        • AD_Rtr_OS

          Sarcasm-101!

  • Kavanna

    Of course it is a mistake.

    It’s important to remember that the rise of women’s wages since 1980 started from a lower base.

    Among the middle, upper-middle, and upper classes, the pattern is generally one of approximate equality in earnings between men and women, or men having the larger earnings. That seems to be a stable situation. Otherwise, the situation of lower male earnings, or male not earning at all, seems to be inherently unstable.

    While “women’s work” in the lower classes hasn’t been displaced by automation or globalization in the same way as “men’s work,” such work is an intergenerational dead-end. Combine that with the additional ill effects of having children outside of marriage, and we’re back to the “two societies” of the nineteenth century. It was widespread, productive, well-paying semi-skilled work for men that produced the rising working and lower middle classes in the West. That seems to be on its final legs. What’s been displacing the classical modernizing pattern is a growing class of working poor/underclass/lumpenproletariat.

  • Andrew Allison

    Stuff-and-nonsense. Society has always, and always will be stratified. Furthermore, there’s a surfeit of women. Ergo, if marriage to men lacking a high school diploma is becoming less attractive, it suggests that the alternative (welfare) is more attractive.

  • fyouell

    Of course no one cares about the fate of men (particularly white working class men). The designated losers of American society can’t expect a lot of sympathy. Identity politics are a zero-sum game. With both parties pandering to Hispanics, women, etc. men can only get the short end of the stick.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

      What have white working class men ever done for America? Besides winning the Civil War and manning the Industrial Revolution maybe.

      • Wuffus

        How about getting off the dope you’ve been smoking for years – you might get a clue.

        • http://www.facebook.com/joeedh Joe Eagar

          Right back at ya.

          • Wuffus

            ooh that really hurt my feelings. how did you construe such a statement?

  • Jim Luebke

    Watch for an age gap to reopen, between husbands and wives, as women look for men who have managed to establish themselves. (Don’t believe me? Look at the tendency of Princeton women not to date younger men…) This may also help explain why women put off marriage. Look at how long it takes men to get in gear and gain some status. Men like to have found our niche, too, before we get settled.

    In this country, the chunk of lower-class men who go unattached (aside from regular rides on the village bicycle, thoughtfully supplied by feminist “empowerment”) will generally go unnoticed in the general reduction in marriage rates. In other countries such as China, the trend may be more pronounced.

    Also expect to see more “We should legalize polygamy. I’m serious” essays in serious publications.

    Is matriarchy the answer? Well, considering that most cultures that have flirted with it are either in a state of active collapse (American Indians after Columbus; inner-city cultures today) or are overrun by patriarchal cultures (ancient Minoans, for example) the odds aren’t good.

    • AD_Rtr_OS

      Raising the “Princeton Standard” – is that a very effective argument?

  • rheddles

    No, the worst thing to happen to the black family since the abandonment of Reconstruction was the introduction of the welfare state, See the Coleman report.

  • kenroyall

    And we need millions of illegal workers to be made legal why?

  • Odah

    as one of these left out men ..it is fine ..i don’t have to be expected to support a woman or a child .. i can make just enough to take care of my own needs .. i have craigs list to hook up with all the women looking to cheat on their boyfreinds or husbands with total strangers ..why would i trust a woman today enough to marry her

    • Jim Luebke

      I’m not sure which is the worst sign of just how bad things are, the fact that someone posted this or the fact that it’s one of the most popular comments on the list.

      Society is going to self-destruct if this keeps up. Modern Euro-Atlantic culture has utterly failed to build social trust at even the most basic level.

      This cannot, will not last.

      Either the clock turns back or the clock runs out. There is no credible third way.

      • Odah

        society is colapsing and don’t blame those of us who society fail..i got a piss poor education and now you can’t get a job if you have trouble writing.. or can’t get through an online resume to get a crap job …society as we knew it is done ..when a big piece of it was formed bty the church..where what half the priest are gay and there where how many pedofiles

      • Odah

        it was real easy to build trust when humans lived and little villages and small cities ..and died by the age of 35 or 40 .. we have to build new expectations for humanity that can now be expected to live from 70-150 years ..and are now living on a planet where a threat to our survival is there are to many of us

      • Odah

        honestly though i am 35 and i am nearly a virgin .. again i have barely been able to support myself so i never wanted to risk bring kidlets into the world ..and again never found a woman i could trust ..for to long

  • http://www.facebook.com/merina.smith.1 Merina Smith

    This is a terrible problem that will come crashing down on us in coming years. Did anyone see the article in the Wall Street Journal today about the feminist who had to rethink some of her assumptions when her college attending son was accused by a former girlfriend of rape? She suddenly realized that men are being presumed guilty in the modern world. Ladies, it’s time to wake up and defend our sons and men in general. Maybe the world we agitated for is not the world we want.

  • http://twitter.com/SgtPolite Chance Boudreaux

    The assault on Working Class White Men is a surprise?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luke-Lea/579129865 Luke Lea

    Sadly there is a certain amount of anti white working class bigotry out there, especially when they are gentiles. We see it in the NYT and Washington Post all the time. We need to face up to this problem.

  • tweell

    The modern American blue-collar man doesn’t have a problem with his purchasing power decreasing because he has more incentives to be poor. He can take care of his needs with a part-time minimum wage job. There’s nothing to claim for child support, and very little for taxes.

    He has seen frivorce and has no wish to experience it up close. When you aren’t supporting a wife and children, it’s amazing how much money stays in the wallet.

  • Wuffus

    Very sad. Those that whine that nobody cares about their “feelings”, “thoughts” and “emotions” are the most cold, cruelest, bitchy, bossy beings in the American workforce.

  • Wuffus

    Equal work = Equal pay. I’ve seen equal pay but NOT equal work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.lega Gregory Lega

    It was always like that in the U.S. Men work their butts off and the Women cry how hard life is because they don’t have a salt shaker on the kitchen table…..

  • trojanguy

    White males of all ages and all demographics had better come to the conclusion (and quickly) that the Democratic Party (aka American Communist Party) of the past 30+ years has become their avowed enemy. The enemy of Far Left Liberal/Progressives, gays and lesbians, radical feminists, most minority groups, illegal aliens, the majority of college/university faculties, the ACLU, public employee unions, etc., and the list goes on and on. When white males vote for Liberal Democrats and their destructive social and economic policies, they are voting AGAINST their own self interests, and may as well stick a knife in their own backs. Wake Up….pay attention to those who want your votes but who are really the Enemy Within!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ralph-Warner/1550112631 Ralph Warner

    What this report doesn’t say is that a lot of men who are still in the work force are supporting their wives while they go to school to get their degrees. In fact some men are working two jobs so that their wives can go to school