Male Recession

In a couple of short articles that combine two major themes of recent BCC posts, employment for women and unemployment due to the current economic climate, the Financial Times is reporting that our economies are experiencing a “very male recession”.

The current economic crisis is shining a spotlight on male and female employment trends and revealing the alarming effect of disparity in compensation. In the United States, “men make up half of the workforce but have shouldered more than three quarters of the 5.1m job losses since the recession started.” This is a result of male/female employment rates in the sectors hit hardest by the recession: “Men have been disproportionately hurt because they dominate those industries that have been crushed: nine in every 10 construction workers are male, as are seven in every 10 manufacturing workers. These two sectors alone have lost almost 2.5m jobs. Women, in contrast, tend to hold more cyclically stable jobs and make up 75 per cent of the most insulated sectors of all: education and healthcare.” The third hardest-hit sector, which is also dominated by males, is finance. Women’s employment choices in “more cyclically stable jobs” such as in education and healthcare has shielded them to some extent during the Recession. The male unemployment rate is at 8.8% while the female unemployment rate is at 7%, whereas both were closer to 5% before this downturn.

But both articles note that this disparity, which seems to be a result of male interest in jobs/industries that happen to be the most susceptible to economic downturns (construction, manufacturing, finance), is highlighting that women earn less than men. Also, many of the jobs women often choose to do are not only lower paying but do not provide benefits such as health insurance. These are facts that are often cited but in this economic cycle people are feeling their effects more than ever. “The widening gap between male and female joblessness means many US families are solely reliant on the income the woman brings in. Since women earn on average 20 per cent less than men, that is putting extra strain on many households.”

With these things in mind, some possible outcomes of the Recession could include:
– initially, families making do with less as they are supported by women who earn less but in more stable industries
– the entrance of men into less cyclically vulnerable sectors
– less wage disparity between men and women in the workplace
– more two-income families as men re-enter the workforce in their cyclically vulnerable professions after having been supported by women who took up jobs in the more stable industries during the downturn and then stay in their jobs

It’s hard to imagine that an outcome will be more women in the construction or manufacturing industries. Are women hardwired to be less interested in these types of work? Whatever the reason they weren’t more heavily represented in those industries before the Recession, the first FT article notes that the jobs in these industries pay on average $220 more per week than the jobs in the industries dominated by women.

Are women being paid less in the same jobs? We know that studies have been conducted that seem to show this; however, (anecdotally) I am reasonably certain that women in my workplace in the same job earn the exact same amount. Are the jobs in these cyclically vulnerable industries more highly compensated because primarily men are doing them or for other market-related reasons stemming from the nature of that work? These questions, particularly the latter, seem relevant to an analysis of the potential effect that this Recession could have on pay disparities in the end. At the very least, it is throwing the situation of earning disparities into stark relief as more families than before rely on women as the sole breadwinners in the home, at least temporarily.


  1. Does the article talk about risk-aversion at all? Obviously, jobs that are more risky will have a higher compensation. I’m pretty sure that women are more risk averse than men, though I can’t cite any studies about that. I kind of doubt that a long-term effect of the recession will be men entering cyclically stable sectors (with the possible exception of government work – although, plenty of government employees have lost their jobs, so who knows if you can call it cyclically stable.)

  2. Scrubs! The apparent solution to both respect and stable employment…

  3. Kristine says:

    “Are women hardwired to be less interested in these types of work?”

    Please be joking, John.

    Women’s overrepresentation in the service professions can quite reasonably be traced to the fact that those were the only careers they were allowed to pursue until relatively recently. Pay in female-dominated professions has also historyically been lower than in male-dominated ones–it’s interesting to see the economic equation of those careers up-ended (even though the consequences for individuals and families are more heartbreaking than interesting).

  4. Kristine says:



  5. A cynical economist would point out that higher wages in manufacturing and construction that similarly-skilled industries dominated by women likely has more to do with danger/risk compensation than gender bias.

    The economic literature has plenty of evidence of the (logically obvious) reality that people who expose themselves to danger (like forklifts and falling razorblades) prefer to be paid a bit more.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, I think that John is referring to lockstep pay structures in his line of work, which are fairly common.

    And historyically or not, pay in female-dominated professions is still lower than in male-dominated ones.

  7. Kristine says:

    Yes, Scott, and someone might offer the obvious rejoinder that nursing is at least as dangerous as doctoring, teaching (especially in urban schools) is at least as dangerous as investment banking, etc.

    And, perhaps also that women have had to sue for their right to participate in those risks and the correspondingly better pay.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    PS – I for one am relieved that this post is not about pattern baldness or swimming in cold water. John, I think it’s a timely and interesting post. Surely this happened in the Great Depression as well, with the difference that women weren’t in the workplace at all.

  9. Kristine,
    Apples and oranges. Keep the right context–I spoke only of “similarly-skilled” jobs. Are you really asserting that construction and production line jobs fall into the same level of skilled labor as nurses and investment bankers?

  10. Kristine says:

    No, of course not. Perhaps I should have mentioned sweatshop garment assembly…

  11. #9: I can’t see where my guy on the “production line ” messed up my car. You really want to put him up against “investment bankers”?….Today?!

  12. re # 3, why is that supposed to be a joke? Kristine, are you saying that the fact that only 1 in 10 workers in the construction industry is a woman has nothing to do with women being generally less interested in construction work and is only because they weren’t “allowed” to be construction workers until recently? I suppose you’re probably right about that. Most of the women I know are interested in construction work.

  13. Kristine,
    re sweatshops–

    Let’s take it a step back here. I think you think my comment above had something to do with men and women in the same job being paid differently. It did not. My comment above meant simply that “construction” and other dangerous jobs are generally given a bump up in payment because…they’re dangerous.

    Thus I am NOT saying that women and men in construction get paid the same OR get paid differently (I just don’t know!). What I AM saying is that a woman (or man) who works construction should expect to be paid a bit more than a woman (or man) who works in a similarly skilled, but less dangerous occupation.

    The paragraph in JohnF’s post I addressed said that construction jobs generally pay more than “those industries dominated by women”. All I said is that if skill levels are similar, there IS a justification beyond X & Y chromosomes that the wages for the WHOLE construction industry might be higher.

  14. John Mansfied says:

    I’ve commented on this in the past, so let’s see how well anyone can do remembering. Which choice is closest to the ratio of male deaths on the job to female deaths on the job?

    A) 3:1
    B) 10:1
    C) 50:1

  15. Mark Brown says:

    john f.,

    ir regards to hardwiring, I think the difficulty arises from our assumption that because we don’t see many women in a particular occupation it must be due to hardwiring.

    A quick glance at how the workplace hsa shifted can show that our assumptions are often wrong. For instance, 50 years ago, males dominated the medical, dental, and legal professions, at a rate greater than 90%. Yet now more women then men are admitted to medical and dental schools, and that might also be the case with law schools. Anybody speculating in 1950 that women were not wired for medicine or dentistry would now be a laughingstock.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    John M, does the figure include military personnel?

  17. John Mansfied says:

    Steve Evans, no, probably because the military doesn’t come under the Department of Labor.

  18. I wanted to work in construction, but I had no role models, so I became a glorified secretary instead.

  19. Mark:

    To respond to your comment # 15 and Kristine at the same time, why aren’t women suing to be included in the construction industry in greater numbers? That they aren’t, by and large, interested in becoming construction workers seems a reasonable answer.

    This post isn’t about women being hardwired not to be interested in construction work. That was a tangential query.

    This post notes that a casualty of the recession might just be the status quo of disparate earnings between men and women in the workforce. That would be a good thing, I would have thought. You can feel free to disagree.

    One obstacle stands in the way of seeing this as a silver lining of the current Recession: in a situation where women are paid less in education and health care than men are paid in construction and manufacturing, is this because of gender or is the disparate pay a result of market factors derivative of the specific work at issue? If it is the latter, even the spotlight that this Recession is putting on disparate pay (by virtue of families that are relying solely on income from women after men in vulnerable industries have lost their job) might not be enough to ensure an end to disparate pay between genders. Instead, the solution would be for women to join the construction, manufacturing and finance industries at a rate closer to 5 out of 10 workers rather than 1 out of 10 workers (to take the construction industry as an example).

    Mark and Kristine, do you see this post as somehow hostile to women?

  20. Kristine says:

    No, I do not see this post as hostile to women. I do think it ignores some important context for considering the effects of a gendered economy.

  21. Kristine says:

    Scott, I got it the first time. I meant to offer counterexamples of similarly skilled positions where the female-dominated field paid less than the male-dominated one, and no difference in danger could account for that disparity.

  22. Kristine,

    Are you saying that a nurse and a doctor are “similarly skilled positions”?

    and the skilss/training for a teacher are roughly equivalent to those for an investment banker?

  23. Kristine says:

    yes, but arguing it would be a huge threadjack, and I have already completely derailed John’s thread. Sorry, John.
    (the very, very short version: we count nurses’ and teachers’ skills differently. We shouldn’t)

  24. Mark Brown says:

    do you see this post as somehow hostile to women?

    John, nope, not in general. I zeroed in on the hardwired part because it seemed to strike a false note, that’s all. Consider the other sector which according to the article has been hardest hit — finance. Would it sound odd to you to hear somebody say that the reason women aren’t in that field is because they just aren’t cut out for it, and are maybe bad with math and numbers?

    Occam’s razor, my friend. The best explanation for the discrepancies is that many construction and manufacturing jobs require lots of upper body strength. I say this as a person who spent several hours last week carrying 4×8 3/4 inch sheets of plywood 15 feet up a ladder. And although banking is changing, it is still a field that is dominated by very conservative and traditional thinking, so it isn’t surprising that women are under-represented.

  25. John Mansfied says:

    Times up! The correct answer is choice B. In 2002, 5,524 people were killed on the job in America. How many of them were men? 3,000? 4,000? The count was 5,083, or 23 out of every 25 deaths. If workplace hazard were shouldered equally by men and women, then women would die on the job twelve times as often than they do now, a workplace gender disparity that I’m happy to keep as it is. From 1991 through 1999, an average of 93 people a year were killed and 21,351 were injured in mining accidents. When twelve people died in the Sago Mine in West Virginia in January 2006 and one was rescued and when five miners died in Kentucky in May of that year, all those people were men. Their sex wasn’t even noticeable because that’s just the way it is. Contrast with how much more shocking and undesirable it would be for twelve women to die on the job together.


  26. Kristine says:

    “he spotlight that this Recession is putting on disparate pay (by virtue of families that are relying solely on income from women after men in vulnerable industries have lost their job) might not be enough to ensure an end to disparate pay between genders. Instead, the solution would be for women to join the construction, manufacturing and finance industries at a rate closer to 5 out of 10 workers rather than 1 out of 10 workers (to take the construction industry as an example).”

    John, that would be an intriguing outcome that might tell us something about whether people are drawn to certain professions because of their temperament (or gender) or whether people tend to make those decisions based more on economic interests. And there’s the flip side–would all the guys I dated in college who said they really, really wanted to be high school teachers or stay-at-home dads if only they didn’t have a duty to provide really start doing it if the economic penalties were reduced?

    Often, when women have entered professions in large numbers, those professions have declined in prestige and compensation; it would be an interesting test to see if the economy has changed enough that that would no longer happen.

  27. >Their sex wasn’t even noticeable because that’s just the way it is.


  28. Kristine says:

    “Contrast with how much more shocking and undesirable it would be for twelve women to die on the job together.”

    Why would it be more shocking or undesirable? It’s horrible that anyone dies on the job–I can’t see why the person’s sex matters.

  29. John Mansfied says:

    “Would it sound odd to you to hear somebody say that the reason women aren’t in that field is because they just aren’t cut out for it, and are maybe bad with math and numbers?”

    Yeah, because the firing of Larry Summers was supposed to keep everyone cowed from voicing such possibilities. I like the way that Steve Sailer explained the overwhelming male composition of the Harvard math department:

    We of the Council of the Elders of Patriarchy have determined that while we can afford to power share with women at minor outposts of power such as the Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Business School, so long as we hang on to the Harvard Math department, WE SHALL RULE THE WORLD! HA HA HA HA!

  30. John Mansfied says:

    Oh come on, Kristine. When those well-publicized mining accidents happened, did you even stop to notice that the dead were all men? If some sort of Triangle Shirt Factory disaster happened this year, would you be able to not notice that all the dead were women?

  31. Steve Evans says:

    “Often, when women have entered professions in large numbers, those professions have declined in prestige and compensation”

    Kristine, often? I actually can’t think of more than one or two instances when women have entered the marketplace, and I have to admit I don’t recall there being a corresponding dip in prestige/compensation (although it may well have happened).

  32. #5, #14, #19–Scott, John M, John F: wikipedia has some refutation of the danger pay idea. (not saying it’s case-closed but just that you might want to check that out) They seem to think that men aren’t very interested in going into coal mining and construction either, but that they literally have no other option (note that male migrant workers from Mexico account for a huge proportion of on-the-job deaths in the US).

    Again, I don’t offer this as some kind of case-closed argument. But the point was interesting enough that I wanted to do a bit of reading and came across that.

  33. I’ve read some news accounts on this new state of employment recently, illustrated with plenty of stories about unemployed fathers and husbands who are shouldering new responsibilities at home. But for years now, while I’ve been reading similar stories about domestic equality between husbands and wives, I’ve also continued to hear reports that women work many more hours at housekeeping than men do.

    I’m wondering: Will women continue to carry the lion’s share of work at home, coupled not only with their usual paid employment but now with the added stress that the loss of a job means a family disaster?

    And then I remember that single mothers have been living this way for generations. And that single women, although without responsibility of childcare, have also lived this way for generations.

    It seems like a more stressful situation now that so many families are affected by this condition. I don’t know why it should be more stressful, but it feels like it is.

  34. Mark Brown says:

    Cynthia, it’s because Mexicans are hard-wired to to dangerous work and caucasian people are not.

    (Sorry john f.!)

  35. Steve (31): Secretarial work, teaching, service positions such as stewards becoming stewardesses and waiters becoming waitresses,* and store keeping come to (historical) mind.

    (* I know there’s a crass joke in there and expect someone to make it, but I can’t figure out the grammatical way to avoid that while maintaining the formal similarity between items in my list.)

  36. “training for a teacher are roughly equivalent to those for an investment banker?”


    The investment bankers in my ward = B.A. perhaps a two-year MBA, though some were recruited straight from college; summer internship led to entry level position in the six figures.

    Me, high school teacher = BA. + B.S. + M.Ed. + formal internship + three to five professional meetings/workshops each year for the rest of my life. I will likely never earn six figures.

  37. Deborah–
    To be fair, M.Ed is in no way required to be a high school teacher.

  38. Cynthia, you’re killing me.

    I did NOT say women OR men are more willing to accept dangerous jobs (that’s what the wiki link you gave addresses). I said that ALL people (men AND women) who are willing to accept dangerous jobs get paid more a bit more.

    Can you hear me (everyone!)? BOTH! Good heavens!

  39. LOL. I didn’t say you did say that. But I think we’re clear now.

  40. (holds head in hands while mommy and daddy yell at each other)

  41. Kristine says:

    John, I would notice, but I honestly don’t think it would make a difference in the degree of my horror.

  42. Jobs in manufacturing are almost certainly more highly compensated due to effective labor unions in the early and mid-twentieth century whose rise coincided with enormous economic growth within those industries. Simply put, there was more money in the pot and the unions gave the workers the means to get more of it. Unfortunately those early successes sowed the seeds of the demise of those same jobs some sixty years later.

    Jobs in finance are more highly compensated due to the fact that previously investment bankers risked their own capital.


    Women associates in your workplace earn the same as the male associates, but it isn’t a stretch to imagine female partners earn less than similarly situated male partners.

  43. Cynthia:

    Not exactly true. In many states, you have to have a masters in many states for full certification — so an M.A., at least, is needed if you want to stay in the profession. And then there are the PDP’s after that required for certification renewal. There are some alternate routes to certification, but most of those include a year-long graduate-level equivalent training. I now teach in independent schools; at most leading independent schools, a masters (or higher) in a subject is considered a pre-req for employment consideration. And if you want to advance into administration, and M.Ed. + additional certification is certainly necessary.

  44. Ignore typos. I’m blind from paper grading.

  45. William H. says:

    I work in construction, and I’d love to see more women on the jobsite. The reality is that women, generally speaking, just don’t have the physical strength to do many construction jobs. I’m 5’10”, 220 pounds. I work out at least 4 times a week. Some days I feel weak and undersized on the job. I also risk death and serious injury almost everyday.

    I’m also payed pretty good (when I’m working). Every contractor I’ve done work for this past year is going into bankruptcy. Things look bleak.

  46. #37 – Just to confirm Deborah’s point, my state requires most people to go through a licensing program that leads to a certificate or to a M.Ed. It is 1-2 additional years of schooling, depending on the program.

    Often, there is a correlation between advanced degrees and higher-incomes, but I think it depends on what the degree is in. Certainly, for instance, a PhD in the humanities is probably not going to boost one’s income, even though it requires 6-7 years of further education. I guess I subscribe to the view that wages are ultimately a product of what the market will bear.

  47. esodhiambo says:

    Cynthia– every single teacher in my state (and an increasing number of others) holds a Masters. Even those who teach Pre-K, PE, and Home Ec. It is a requirement.

    Steve–if you genuinely believe that women were not in the workplace during or before the Great Depression, then you need significantly more historical education. Women have always worked for pay.

    I won’t embellish Ardis’ excellent list of professions which were devalued once women joined forces. It happens over and over. The ONLY reason I am confident that I make the same amount as a similarly trained, credentialed, and experienced male colleague is that my industry is fully unionized. Were it not, I would be way down the totem pole. As it is, male teachers still make more because they tend to take on extras like mentoring clubs, coaching, additional degrees, and getting their Doctorates to go into administration–I don’t have time for that stuff because I go home to cook and clean for my family.

    All–of all the construction workers I have ever known, none of them did it for the love of construction. They did it because it was the best-paying job they could get with their level of education. Not skills, not aptitude, not passion. Just money.

  48. esodhiambo, please read what I said. I didn’t even mention the Great Depression, nor did I talk about whether or not women have always worked for pay. Thanks for the advice about getting more historical education though. [edit: yeah, I totally mentioned the Great Depression earlier. oops. But I was talking about women entering the workforce en masse rather than just case-by-case, which I don’t believe occurred prior to that point in time)]

    I wish you would embellish Ardis’ list — not because her list wasn’t excellent, but because I’d like to get more information about how these professions were devalued. Where are you getting your information? Are there any studies? Or are these your anecdotal perceptions? I’m not disputing the accuracy of these perceptions, but I think we could probably do a little better here than just saying “it happens over and over.”

    I would, though, point out that your sentence: “male teachers make more because they tend to take on extras…I don’t have time for that stuff” is extremely problematic for many reasons. I don’t think it illustrates your point about sexism the way you think it does.

  49. In respect to women’s tendencies to choose lower-income professions, I think that women often feel pressured to pick careers that have more flexibility in hours so that they can attend to family responsibilities. Lower-paying fields have traditionally offered more flexibility. Another reality is that women are often asked to move for their spouse or alter their educational plans for their spouse and children, which makes it difficult for them to complete the long graduate programs required for entry into some professions, especially when their biological clocks are ticking. Not everyone can balance all of these demands.

    That said, I’m actually open to the idea that men and women – in general – might be programed for different interests, because if our bodies are programmed so differently,I can imagine that our brains are, too. But the problem with saying that maybe we are wired differently is that those unvarified expressions are often used to excuse flawed systems that might be unintentionally discriminating against some class of people. I don’t for a minute think that this post intends that, but I’m trying to suggest a reason why feminists often react negatively to such expressions.

  50. Natalie, totally agree. Even if men and women were wired differently, there’s no way to come to a general conclusion about what that means or how we should adopt changes to our system to account for them. It just results in bizarre discrimination.

  51. William H. says:

    re: 47

    I love working in construction. I could go back to work in the aviation industry, but I just don’t care for it. Construction is a hobby of mine, and going to work is like hanging out with the guys, while pursuing a hobby.

    I like building. I like taking materials and turning them into one of the most useful items one can have. Shelter. I like the variety of work. I like using my artistic talents to make structures aesthetically pleasing. I like the adrenaline rush I get at work. I like developing new skills on a routine basis. I like tools. And while the pay is good, it’s not as good as what it would be in the aviation industry. I work construction because it’s what I want to do.

  52. esodhiambo says:

    William H–so glad you love your job. I would guess, though, that most of your colleagues are there for the money.

  53. Most people go to work for the money. Even teachers.

  54. Ok I guess I stand corrected on the teaching credential thing. Maybe that explains why my state is like 2nd to last in test scores since I’m certain it’s not required here.

  55. Cynthia,
    I’m not so sure. Credentials and certificates do not an excellent teacher make. What they do make, is a situation where it’s impossible to fire a bad teacher.

    Our state’s problems are bigger than just credentials.

  56. Finance Bankers are paid in Bonuses, if they don’t perform well, they don’t get paid. Teachers get paid no matter how they perform and, being public and government run, pay low wages on the back of offering a retirement plan and a mix of the government controlling education and holding a monopoly on education and thus being able to regulate pay across the board, along with there being a much larger supply of people with Education degrees than Finance degrees. Currently Doctors are paid very well in the US and require tons of school, where as Nurses require less school and there are a lot more nurses than doctors because of this. So Nurses get paid less. (In Italy, where medicine is controlled by the Government, I am anecdottaly told the pay is more in line with Teachers, and thus many Youth do not want to become doctors as it requires too much education for too little pay.)

    It’s all supply and demand. When Men or Women enter any market en Masse, without their being an equal shift in demand, the pay in that market goes down.

  57. esodhiambo says:

    Steve–I really think the idea of a sector decreasing in prestige once women join en masse was pretty well accepted to the point that is taught in HS history classes. I don’t think there is much controversy, but I am sorry I don’t have better data for you. The basic idea is (and was) that men need better pay so they can support families, so women doing the same job are essentially doing it just for fun. Here is a little illustration about teachers in PA:
    “Men predominated as teachers until the early 1800s, with women becoming more prevalent as time went by. Then, as now, salaries for teachers were a source of heated debate. Among the many arguments was the fact that a male teacher could not afford to support a family solely on a teacher’s salary. According to Pennsylvania annual school reports published in local newspapers, men consistently received a higher salary than women. However, during the Civil War years, salaries were almost equal. In 1893, Kennett Township hired 5 women teachers at the rate of $40.00 per month and 1 male teacher at the rate of $77.77 per month. Birmingham and Pennsbury Townships also hired women teachers in 1893 for salaries between $40 and $45 per month.”

    Once women demand more equitable pay and unions come into play, more women get involved, the sector becomes feminized, and men move on to more prestigious and better-compensated work. And wages for the women in the older fields remain low because, after all, they don’t have to support families.

    BTW–here is a funny list of expectations for teachers from the 1800s:

    I am not sure which point you thought I was trying to make; I was just pointing out that even in unionized (and gender-blind) fields, there is still room for discrepency. I fully recognize that the specific examples cited are personal choices, not based on reproductive organs at all, but it is quite remarkable to note that a field as feminized as K-12 education has such a masculine administration. I currently work in 3 elementary schools and while there are only about 5 men in each building, they are remarkably placed in PE, IT, janitorial work, and Administration. Quite striking, I think.

    I’ll keep looking for some real stats for women dragging down the pay–we are not imagining this.

    gst–true enough. Most teachers work for the summers off, though.

  58. Thanks Eso. I guess part of what I am interested in seeing is how we can show that this is causation and not simple correlation with the downward trends in salaries. For example, to what extent could dropping labor prices be the result of a general excess in labor, rather than specifically the result of the entrance of women in a given domain?

    It’s remarkable and sad that this would occur – I am sure there must be some more detailed studies out there on it.

  59. esodhiambo says:

    Yup–supply and demand has to play into it, right? Anytime you bar half the population (either by law or by practice) from a certain job and then open it up to them, it is going to pull a whamy on your supply. But how would you explain that “female” jobs just happen to be low-paying?

  60. Mark Brown says:


    One of my weird hobbies is reading old newspapers. It was very common in Utah 100 years ago to see an ad something like this:

    Wanted, cheesemaker. Prefer a single woman because we are a small dairy and cannot afford to pay a man’s salary.

    It’s so odd to see this ad reflect the idea that a man should make more because he has a family to support, but ironically, many of the single women who would apply for jobs like this also probably had children to support.

  61. Last I checked Nurses still get paid more than Construction Workers, as do teachers, at least here locally. Starting Salary for a teacher here is $36k, and Nurses demand over $30 an hour, while Construction workers are getting $10-$20 an hour here.

    All Anecdotal, of course.

  62. esodhiambo says:

    Matt W.–don’t you think that commensurate with degrees? Teachers and nurses, while largely female, are also college degreed and construction workers are not necessarily.

    Perhaps a more apt comparison would be between teachers (who, in my state, must have Masters degrees) with other professions that require graduate degrees. I would guess is may be on par with social workers (another “female” profession), but much less than, say, engineers.

  63. esodhiambo says:

    Mark–perfectly sensible hobby. Love the ad–very common sentiment.

  64. Peter LLC says:

    like forklifts and falling razorblades)

    Awesome. I have Staplerfaher Klaus on DVD.

  65. I’m sympathetic to the idea that most men working in construction or manufacturing aren’t there because they like it but rather because it was a job they could get given their backgrounds. Set aside how horribly arrogant that statement is — regardless, it is very likely true. But, then again, it probably applies to most of us regardless of our profession, doesn’t it? (Apart from self-employed entrepreneurial millionaires and investment bankers/CEOs or other executives at the top of their professions, tenured professors, and politicians in safe seats and/or positions with long terms, of course.)

    The question remains whether jobs in this industry are more highly compensated on average because the workers are men or whether that is attributable to other market factors relating to the type of work. Certainly Mathew has made a good point with relation to manufacturing that the higher pay on average could be attributable to the influence of unions, which exempts that sector from a market analysis because, absent the interference of the unions in the compensation question in that sector, average wages might very well be on par with wages in the white collar and clerical work being done by people employed in the education and health care industries.

    This post wasn’t very original, you know. One of the FT articles linked in the post pointed out that “[w]omen’s campaign groups hope such strains will apply pressure for labour market reforms that benefit women.” The idea that by putting the spotlight on pay disparities as it has, the Recession might provide some impetus for more equal compensation is pretty obvious, actually. And this would seem to be a good thing.

    Will the Recession also be the impetus for more women becoming construction workers and joining the manufacturing industry? Since, as pointed out in comments above, women are obviously equally interested in construction work and manufacturing, and are equally willing and able to do this work, then it also seems obvious that an ironic result of this Recession’s smoothing of pay disparities will be a closer to 1:1 ratio of women to men in the construction and manufacturing industries, the two industries hit hardest by the Recession. This is an ironic outcome because those industries are generally cyclically vulnerable, not just in this Recession. So in a future Recession, women and men will be affected more equally by unemployment. This is, apparently, a good thing.

  66. Kristine says:

    John, no need to be sarcastic. I’m really sorry to have gotten the discussion off to a bad start by nitpicking around the edge of your argument instead of engaging the main points, and by getting in a snit over a couple of unfortunate phrases.

    I doubt that the recession will cause lots of women to enter construction and manufacturing. It might, though, have the effect of making some service sectors like education and healthcare less female-dominated, and that would probably be a good thing.

  67. ESO, 47

    Once women demand more equitable pay and unions come into play, more women get involved, the sector becomes feminized, and men move on to more prestigious and better-compensated work. And wages for the women in the older fields remain low because, after all, they don’t have to support families.

    And these men delayed moving onto more prestigious and better paying work for what reason? I mean besides the feminine environment?

  68. Peter LLC says:

    Wanted, cheesemaker. Prefer a single woman because we are a small dairy and cannot afford to pay a man’s salary.

    At my place of work (in a galaxy far, far way), men and women are payed equally poorly, although the powers that be will consider only women for certain jobs and only men for others. Progress?

  69. #67 – “And these men delayed moving onto more prestigious and better paying work for what reason?”

    MAC, you’ve got the order of events wrong. The fields have historically become low prestige (and lower pay) *after* they become dominated by women. For example, the first telephone operators were young men. Within the first few years, they started hiring more women (at a lower salary than the men). Some people say that it was because customers complained that the men were too gruff, others say that women’s higher voices better cut through the static on early lines. Either way, as the profession became dominated by women, what had been a high prestige, high pay job became a low prestige, low pay job. The feminization of teaching followed a similar route (as has been discussed in previous comments) with male teachers being paid more than female teachers which then provided incentives to hire more females. This in turn led to an overall decline in the prestige and pay of the profession. For females, there were few other professional options. Males, on the other hand, could choose a different career path (one that might more closely resemble what teachers would earn before the field became dominated by women).

  70. Apologies to all, but now the only thing I can think when I look at this thread is
    “blessed are the cheesemakers…”

  71. Steve Evans says:

    Matt W. just beat me to it.

  72. ESO

    I work in a very heavily male field and we are highly incentivized to recruit, develop and promote women. The effect is that women in the industry tend to have better job security, more opportunities for advancement and better cumulative compensation.

    In my field, the high mobility, unpredictable long hours and general lifestyle challenges (along with a university recruiting pool that is already male heavy) are simply less acceptable to a larger percentage of women than to the percentage of men.

    But your problem is not a gender issue, it is a supply and demand issue. If a job is acceptable to a limited group of candidates the laws of supply and demand kick in as does salary pressure.

    Considering the western world, both in civil service and corporate, I don’t doubt that there are some career environments that are preferential to one gender or the other (feminized or the opposite “masculinized” as you put it). But as far as fairness is concerned, in many areas the pendulum has swung. Those masculanized career paths are facilitated for those women who want them while it is still acceptable to maintain the feminized exclusivity of others. Teaching is a good example, check out these links.

  73. John Mansfield says:

    Cynthia L. (#32), I looked up BLS stats on deaths of Mexicans on the job in America, and it turns out they do not die in disproportionate numbers.

    Of the 5,488 fatal occupational injuries in 2007, 959 were incurred by workers who were born outside of the United States. Of the foreign-born workers who were fatally-injured in the U.S. in 2007, the largest share were born in Mexico (44 percent).

    So, foreign-born workers were 17.5% of the fatally injured, and Mexico-born worker were 7.7%

    In 2008, 24.1 million persons, or 15.6 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force age 16 and over, were foreign born, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.

  74. John Mansfield says:

    Adding to that last bit,

    In 2008, Hispanics comprised 49.4 percent of the foreign-born labor force.

    That would make Hispanic, foreign-born workers 7.7% of the labor force.

  75. Steve Evans says:

    John M., the achilles heel there is that you are using BoL stats which I would wager do not include undocumented aliens,

  76. John Mansfield says:

    Are their employers dumping the bodies on street corners so the deaths won’t count as workplace-related?

  77. John Mansfield says:

    From that second source:

    This news release compares the labor force characteristics of the foreign born with those of their native-born counterparts. The data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The foreign born are persons who reside in the United States but who were born outside the country or one of its outlying areas to parents who were not U.S. citizens. The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary
    residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.

  78. Not yet covered.
    I started my Adjusting career in 1971. It was understood: “males only need apply”. Above clerical, it was a man’s world. Then the Sea Change: The computer. The job started to change demanding more and more clerical skills. Most men then could not even type. We found it very hard to compete in this new world. I was lucky enough to be move to the legal department where I again was in a man’s world: Litigation. (All talk). When I retired, it too was starting to be an open world to the female attorneys. (Yes, they can talk the talk..and walk the walk.)

  79. Markets don’t equalize wages among the equally skilled , they equalize total compensation — including job satisfaction — among the equally skilled.

    It is a common critique of economics that “money isn’t everything”, but my most common problem with non-economist labor market analysis is that too often they perform the analysis as if money is everything.

  80. I’m sympathetic to the idea that most men working in construction or manufacturing aren’t there because they like it but rather because it was a job they could get given their backgrounds.

    What do you suppose those guys would rather be doing? Wearing a suit and tie, sitting in an office reviewing endless pages of documents? I don’t think so.

    Try this: how many professionals do you know who spend their weekends gardening, wood-turning, cabinet-making or doing home repair? On the other hand, how many construction or manufacturing workers do you know who spend their weekends reading the user agreements for software they’ve downloaded, the warranties for their new MP3 players or the fine print on their automobile insurance policy?

    I would suggest that the anecdotal evidence shows that a whole lot more men find real satisfaction working construction rather practicing corporate law. The only reason anyone practices corporate law is for the money (at least once they’ve figured out what they’ve got themselves into). Nobody in the history of the world ever dreamed of growing up to work at Davis, Polk & Wardwell.

  81. You are completely right.