An Explanation for the “Man-cession”?

I think there’s reason to be skeptical about a good chunk of the “Oh my God our nation’s men are screwed!” talk that’s occurred over the last couple years (for the same reason it makes sense to be skeptical about claims that rich people or white people or Christian people are having a rough go of it).

That said, this article provides a pretty interesting look at some of the ramifications of the undeniable fact that women are earning college degrees at higher rates than men, which partially explains the current unemployment gap between the genders:

For years now, women have been earning the most college degrees. That trend is accelerating, leaving experts to wonder if men are somehow missing the latest economic wake-up call.

Given a knowledge-based economy and a sluggish outlook for skilled trades, men are facing the economic recovery with significantly bleaker career prospects than the opposite sex.

Rutgers University’s Lionel Tiger expects a “slow but persistent exile of males from higher education,” while anti-feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers sees a future with “a lot of strong women and a lot of disaffected men,” prone to crime and unable to form stable families.

Women familiar with the wage gap, glass ceiling and marriage penalty may well scoff at the idea of male status at risk in the working world. But the educational-achievement divide is real and growing, even if its ultimate consequence is anyone’s guess.

The Education Department’s latest projections show that by 2018, women will be earning more sheepskins in every category, including professional degrees for law, medicine and business.

The biggest difference isn’t so much who starts college, but who finishes. Men drop out at much higher rates.

It’s possible that economic issues play a role in that. Male students working to support their educations, for instance, may be more likely to drop their studies for the lure of a full-time paycheck. In addition, family attitudes have changed from the days when women were viewed as a lower priority for tuition support.

Those issues pale, however, next to academic performance. Females overall perform much better in grade school and beyond. By the time they’re teenagers, in fact, the die is cast.

Plenty of fodder here for both social scientists and demagogues.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.