Why Are Men's Paychecks Shrinking?


A new study from the center-left policy research organization, Third Way, has reached two interesting explanations for why male workers' earnings have been declining in recent decades and why female workers' earnings have been increasing: single-parent households and education.

Less than two-thirds of children (63%) lived in a household with two parents in 2010, down from 82% in 1970. The single parents raising those children are predominantly female. According to David H. Autor, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), "There is growing evidence that sons raised by single mothers appear to fare particularly poorly."

His conclusions lead him to believe that 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 some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners," wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student. "A vicious cycle may ensue, 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."

What’s also leading to a developmental gender gap is education.

"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 MIT economics professor who was not involved in Professor Autor’s work.

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

Many women might be shocked to find out that women’s earnings are rising while men’s are falling, due to the gender gap in total income between men and women. This prompts them to call for equal pay legislation along the lines of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama.

But what's never taken into consideration is that one reason for the total income gap between men and women is due to the fact that many labor-intensive professions that a predominantly held by men construction, oil extraction, coal mining, truck driving/unloading, electrical power-line installers and repairers, steel workers, lumberjacks and fishing workers are also more dangerous with higher fatality rates and thus, due to the laws of economics, pay more.

Others may also be surprised to hear that education still pays due to all the recent horror stories in the news of college graduates crying in their parents' basements. But according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it does indeed.

I would even go further and say bachelor degrees have become the new high school diploma – everybody has one. In my experience, I have found myself competing with JDs, Ph.Ds and MBAs in a poor economy and job market so rough that even graduate degrees are willing to take pay cuts, leaving those without one on the side lines. It’s why I finally threw my hands up and applied for law school (the first acceptance letter of which I just received this week).

But while education definitely matters, it’s still not everything. Work experience, networking, and connections are also just as important, something I think many college graduates don’t learn until after years of trying. Without connections to put your name in front of the competition, you're just resume #37.

Without a job (or career), as Autor’s study finds, men are less attractive as a partner to the growing number of women receiving higher education and higher earnings. Almost everyone accepts the belief that a father’s presence in a child’s life – especially boys – is critical. Some would argue (as Professor Jencks does) that belief, considering many men are a mess when it comes to their personal life, and they may have a point.

But many other studies have also shown that a two-parent household also leads to many other benefits, including financial stability, healthier lifestyles, and better odds of success for the children. Children also receive gender-specific support from having a mother and a father, which may also explain the difference between women’s success growing up in single mother households and lack thereof for men.

As comedian Chris Rock once put it, "Girls will say, 'You don’t need no man to help you raise no child!' Shut the f*ck up with the bullsh*t. Yeah you could do it without a man but that don’t mean it’s to be done. Sh*t, you could drive a car with just your feet if you want to, that don’t make it a good f*cking idea!"

No one can substitute for a father's absence in the household, including government. That’s why I’ve never understood how the left sells female "independence" through dependence on government. Neither has another comedian, Adam Carolla, whose mother was dependent on government:


But there’s no doubt that men need to get their life in order, see the writing on the board when it comes to education (pun intended), and take responsibility for the children they bring into the world. If they don't, not only will they get left behind, but they’re condemning their sons to be left behind as well.