Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man

At Business Week.
For generations, American workers kept up with technological change by achieving higher levels of education than their parents. High school education became the norm as the country progressed from an agrarian society to an industrial one. After World War II, increasing numbers of Americans went to college as the economy became more complex. But for reasons not fully understood, college graduation rates essentially stopped growing for men in the late 1970s, shortly after the Vietnam War ended, perhaps in part because draft deferments were no longer an inducement. Women, on the other hand, continued to pursue college degrees in greater numbers and have been more responsive to the changing economy in other ways, taking many of the nursing and technician positions in the expanding health-care industry and making greater headway in service jobs.

While unemployment is an ordeal for anyone, it still appears to be more traumatic for men. Men without jobs are more likely to commit crimes and go to prison. They are less likely to wed, more likely to divorce, and more likely to father a child out of wedlock. Ironically, unemployed men tend to do even less housework than men with jobs and often retreat from family life, says W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
Keep reading.

It's a changed economy. The traditional working man will be back to work when the economy comes back. But those outsourced jobs and the declining returns to college education are probably permanent features of the American post-industrial economy. Again, with growth, new opportunities will open up for those in construction and services, and of course the college educated will see more opportunities in the professional sectors like law and finance. I wouldn't read too much into it beyond that. We've been seeing variations on these trends for decades.

More on this stuff later.


richard mcenroe said...

The disappearance of the American man from college couldn't possibly have anything to do with same colleges actively moving the goalpostst to admit others (minorities, women, immigrants legal and otherwise) in his place. Must be a reason not fully understood...