There's been some misplaced hand-wringing lately over the plight of men--in particular, well-educated white men--in the Great Recession and the anemic recovery that has followed it.
It's true that men were hit harder by the downturn, thanks mainly to layoffs in the male-dominated construction and manufacturing industries, caused by the housing bust. And even today, 56 percent of the unemployed are men.
But a new report by the Pew Research Center suggests that the recovery, which officially began in July 2009, has been far kinder to men than women. According to the study, based on Labor Department data, men have added 768,000 jobs since then. By contrast, women have lost 218,000 jobsWhy? Part of the reason is that men have started moving into fields long dominated by women, in particular the high-growth industries of health care and private education. Meanwhile, local government cutbacks are reducing the number of public-education and other municipal jobs traditionally held by women.
Before the recession, men held just 23 percent of all health-care and education jobs. But since the recovery began, men took 39 percent of the jobs added in those fields.
The Pew researchers pointed to one possible explanation behind the scale of the great gender job divide: Men were more likely to be unemployed when the downturn ended, meaning that they've since been more willing than women to accept lower-paid jobs, or jobs in fields they're unfamiliar with.
But a broader look at the data over recent years indicates that gender isn't the most salient demographic criterion in breaking down the jobs picture. The battle of the sexes may make headlines, but the major group that was struggling most before the downturn, and that's even further behind now, isn't men or women -- it's the cohort of Americans who lack a college degree. And because many of the decent jobs traditionally done by non-college grads are vanishing--replaced, if at all by, far lower-paying work--disproportionate joblessness among non-college educated workers will continue even as the recovery gains ground.