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Men Making Less Money? Blame It On Their Single Moms

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Study of men’s falling income cites single parents

WASHINGTON — The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.

 

David H. Autor, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the difference between men and women, at least in part, may have roots in childhood. Only 63 percent of children lived in a household with two parents in 2010, down from 82 percent in 1970. The single parents raising the rest of those children are predominantly female. And there is growing evidence that sons raised by single mothers “appear to fare particularly poorly,” Professor Autor wrote in an analysis for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.

 

In this telling, the economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so women are choosing to raise children by themselves, producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

 

“A vicious cycle may ensue,” wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, “with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.”

 

The fall of men in the workplace is widely regarded by economists as one of the nation’s most important and puzzling trends. While men, on average, still earn more than women, the gap between them has narrowed considerably, particularly among more recent entrants to the labor force.

 

 For all Americans, it has become much harder to make a living without a college degree, for intertwined reasons including foreign competition, advancements in technology and the decline of unions. Over the same period, the earnings of college graduates have increased. Women have responded exactly as economists would have predicted, by going to college in record numbers. Men, mysteriously, have not.

 

 Among people who were 35 years old in 2010, for example, women were 17 percent more likely to have attended college, and 23 percent more likely to hold an undergraduate degree.

 

“I think the greatest, most astonishing fact that I am aware of in social science right now is that women have been able to hear the labor market screaming out ‘You need more education’ and have been able to respond to that, and men have not,” said Michael Greenstone, an M.I.T. economics professor who was not involved in Professor Autor’s work. “And it’s very, very scary for economists because people should be responding to price signals. And men are not. It’s a fact in need of an explanation.”

 

Most economists agree that men have suffered disproportionately from economic changes like the decline of manufacturing. But careful analyses have found that such changes explain only a small part of the shrinking wage gap.

 

One set of supplemental explanations holds that women are easier to educate or, as the journalist Hanna Rosin wrote in “The End of Men,” because women are more adaptable. Professor Autor writes that such explanations are plausible and “intriguing,” but as yet unproven.

 

He disagrees entirely with the view of the conservative analyst Charles Murray, in “Coming Apart,” that men have become “less industrious.”

 

 “We’re pretty much in agreement on most of the facts,” Professor Autor said of Mr. Murray. “But he looks at the same facts and says this is all due to the failure of government programs, eroding the commitment to working. And we’re saying, what seems much more plausible here is that the working world just has less and less use for these folks.”

 

Professor Autor’s own explanation builds on existing research showing that income inequality has soared, stretching the gap between rich and poor, and that a smaller share of Americans are making the climb. The children of lower-income parents are ever more likely to become, in turn, the parents of lower-income children.

 

Moreover, a growing share of lower-income children are raised by their mother but not their father, and research shows that those children are at a particular disadvantage.

 

Professor Autor said in an interview that he was intrigued by evidence suggesting the consequences were larger for boys than girls, including one study finding that single mothers spent an hour less per week with their sons than their daughters. Another study of households where the father had less education, or was absent entirely, found the female children were 10 to 14 percent more likely to complete college. A third study of single-parent homes found boys were less likely than girls to enroll in college.

 

“It’s very clear that kids from single-parent households fare worse in terms of years of education,” he said. “The gender difference, the idea that boys do even worse again, is less clear cut. We’re pointing this out as an important hypothesis that needs further exploration. But there’s intriguing evidence in that direction.”

 

Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

 

“If Democrats have as their goal being the party of the middle class, they have to come to the realization that they’re not going to be able to get there solely through their standard explanations,” said Mr. Cowan, a veteran of the Clinton administration. “We need to ask, ‘How can we get these fathers back involved in their children’s lives?’ ”

 

But some experts cautioned that Professor Autor’s theory did not necessarily imply that such children would benefit from the presence of their fathers.

 

“Single-parent families tend to emerge in places where the men already are a mess,” said Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at Harvard University. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Suppose the available men were getting married to the available women? Would that be an improvement?’ ”

 

Instead of making marriage more attractive, he said, it might be better for society to help make men more attractive.

by on Mar. 20, 2013 at 3:57 PM
Replies (31-40):
futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:44 PM


Quoting jhslove:

Wow. Well, I guess my husband, who was raised by a single mom along with his three brothers, is in trouble. They're all successful and happily married. I wonder what she did wrong?!

I guess I missed the part of the article that said the study was talking about every single male raised by a single mother.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:45 PM


Quoting furbabymum:

 I think men are also more likely to succumb to addictions like gaming, tv, etc. I don't know how many posts I've read on CM where the woman is working and complaining about her SO who is doing nothing but playing Xbox.

Well maybe that's the answer, women are supporting useless men. Men used to have to have a good job to support their family but now women don't require that and thus, men aren't doing it.

I think this is a big part of it.

now women don't require that and thus, men aren't doing it.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:46 PM


Quoting TranquilMind:

I believe he is right, that it is a vicious cycle.  There will always be exceptions, who can break the stats, but generally men are faring more poorly, and single parent homes are one reason. 

The need for strong, stable, married husbands and wives(because children need both) to raise children cannot be overstated. 

Very true.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:49 PM


Quoting OHgirlinCA:

While I do think a strong and stable marriage is ideal for children as a whole, I think what children need are strong and stable role models in general, whether it's their parents or other adult figure.  I believe single parents can provide this. 

I think the family unit is only one of many variables.  I think parents overall emphasis on education and work ethic has more of a bearing on whether a child is successful, whether than if the parents are married or not.

Quoting TranquilMind:

I believe he is right, that it is a vicious cycle.  There will always be exceptions, who can break the stats, but generally men are faring more poorly, and single parent homes are one reason. 

The need for strong, stable, married husbands and wives(because children need both) to raise children cannot be overstated. 

 

Then why aren't they doing this, in general?

I believe single parents can provide this. 

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:50 PM


Quoting autodidact:

so only the parents of girls stay together?  this sounds like a lot of unsubstantiated conjecture. 

Read the article.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:52 PM


Quoting stacymomof2:

I guess I don't get why a closing wage gap (not completely closed, of course) is seen as men "faring poorly."  What will people do when the wage gap actually closes?  Start telling women they aren't allowed to go to college anymore?  Put a limit on women's wages so they can't catch up?  psshhht.

There is no evidence here, just a correlation.  Of course they jump right to "it's because of single moms!"  


Because men are earning less, earning down to the level of women.

why a closing wage gap (not completely closed, of course) is seen as men "faring poorly.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 10:53 PM

If you understood the article why did you make that first comment?

Quoting jhslove:

I'm not offended at all, and I understood the point of the article very well, but thanks for your concern.


Quoting TranquilMind:

 No, instead of getting all offended, understand the point. 

Your husband may have done well.  Ben Carsten's Mom did well, as he came out of the ghetto, with an illiterate working Mom, and became the head of Johns Hopkins Pediatric Neurosurgery. 

But they are exceptions, not rules, statisically.  Your mother in law must have done something right, something that is not present in all single parent homes. 


Quoting jhslove:

Wow. Well, I guess my husband, who was raised by a single mom along with his three brothers, is in trouble. They're all successful and happily married. I wonder what she did wrong?!






stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:02 PM
1 mom liked this

Shouldn't we say then that the downward wage pressure is affecting everyone?  I mean women may be equalizing with men, that doesn't mean women are not struggling in this economy just like men.

I can't wrap my head around "down to the level of women."  Ugh

Quoting futureshock:


Quoting stacymomof2:

I guess I don't get why a closing wage gap (not completely closed, of course) is seen as men "faring poorly."  What will people do when the wage gap actually closes?  Start telling women they aren't allowed to go to college anymore?  Put a limit on women's wages so they can't catch up?  psshhht.

There is no evidence here, just a correlation.  Of course they jump right to "it's because of single moms!"  


Because men are earning less, earning down to the level of women.

why a closing wage gap (not completely closed, of course) is seen as men "faring poorly.


alliesaurus
by Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:03 PM

I feel for some reason motivation and drive to succeed has really decreased. Maybe there is a lack of pride and recognition for providing for their family? I can't explain it, but if they aren't being successful I can only believe it is their own fault. My own brother is one of these guys- he just has not goals or aspriations to do more than is necessary. He is okay with the bare minimum. On the flip side he also believe he LIVES a better life this way...smoking weed and enjoying his days rather than spending his entire life in an office. Putting in those hours and working hard is not desirable- and this goes for alot of men in that mid-twenty age range that I know....they also have a very selfish attitude. 

...and for those who say if that is whata girl is willing to tolerate- most of them are single...and why if they did have a child with a woman who left them because they realized they are lazy boys and not men who are willing to stand up, that woman would then become the single mom...so the women are not really tolerating it or maybe they hoped they could change or fix the guy.


...just my thoughts from what I have seen....

quickbooksworm
by Silver Member on Mar. 20, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Its not my fault as a single mom that I can negotiate my salary and men can't.

I am seeing more women take management positions while men seem content at the bottom of the food chain. If men want to earn note, go to college and get some management and leadership skills.

As far as sons raised by single moms becoming losers, I'm more convinced it has more to do with income and education level of kom than anything else. Moms who are more educated dont have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and can spend more time with their kids. They will also place more importance on education. And they can afford activities that will give their children male role models.

I hate these articles because I feel like single moms are being blamed. What about the fathers? Why are they absent? Why aren't they supporting their kids?
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