February 17, 2009
Recession Overturns Gender Roles
Job losses hit men hardest.
Women are about to surpass men in their participation in the workforce. The New York Times reports that "a full 82 percent of the job losses [in this recession] have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction." Women, on the other hand, are heavily represented in steadier sectors of the economy, such as health care and education.
As a result "women are now bearing the burden - or the opportunity, one could say - of being breadwinners," says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress. Just a year ago, some evangelicals were concerned about the two income trap, the need to have mom and dad in the workforce in order to make it in America. Now, families are lucky to have a second income at a time when the economy is losing half a million jobs per month. However, when the wife brings home the bacon, not only does the situation hurt a man's pride, but also challenges his theology, if as Paige Patterson says, a women's place is in the home.
A structural shift may be occurring that could keep women as breadwinners for much longer than the end of the recession. In the last two downturns, writes Justin Fox, the jobs the economy shed never came back. Instead, the new jobs created were in different sectors for people with different skills. It doesn't look as though many investment bankers will head back to Wall Street or construction workers will head back to the Sun Belt when the economy picks up again.
Having two incomes these days looks like less of a trap than desperately-needed insurance policy.