As I sat in the dentist chair, there was a picture of what we Chicagoans call Cub’s Park, better known as Wrigley Field with a crowd waiting to get into a 1945 World Series game. The crowd was all men; all wearing Fedoras. The Greatest Generation in 1945 was male dominated. An American male military won the war with a great deal of help from America’s unionized manufacturing by workmen too old or critical to serve. Employment was MANual, hard work with hands, arms and backs. The organized women garment workers made a major contribution that led to the realization that Rosy could really rivet. This Great Generation created the American Middle Class, organized and voted for Social Security, workplace safety, health care, vacations, and living wages. You seldom see a Fedora anymore and men have lost a lot more than their hats since 1945.
In 1945, I was in the second grade under the influence of some scary ladies in black. The Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary wore garb similar to a burga, except their head was covered in a square black box. Next to our school was a convent in which 25 women from their late teens to late sixties lived. All orders of nuns wore similar black habits which reflected female dress at the time and location of their founding in the middle ages of Europe. Growing up in my neighborhood most of the women and girls wore babushkas. Females had to have their heads covered in church. The custom carried over so many covered their heads when they were out of the house. The babushka was a female symbol of the different standard of dress somewhat required for women. You seldom see babushkas or nuns in black habits any more, but females have gained much more than bare heads in the last 60 years.
The jobs of the Greatest Generation fit the bigger, stronger male body which had evolved over tens of thousands of years as hunters. Males evolved to take risk, fight, take command, and organize hunts. While males brought back animal protein, females of our species had evolved to mature early, care for children, and gather plant food. It takes a great deal of intelligence to identify what and when something could be collected and eaten, ultimately grown and harvested. The female gatherers provided the nutrients that made the intellectual development and success of our species possible. Although the origin of language is controversial, I believe women evolved the ability to communicate their gathering and caring skills to their daughters and other members of their group. The plants and locations needed identification. They also developed the intricate skills of providing clothing and mending injured bodies.
These primitive roles evolved into the traditional family organization, males going out to work to support their families and women at home raising kids and taking care of the nest. Through thousands of years social morays and beliefs evolved to protect the traditional structure. Our immigrant ancestors brought a lot of Europe with them to the New World – in my Chicago, some schools were taught in foreign languages. As a kid I delivered the morning newspapers which included different papers in Hebrew (it might have been in Yiddish), Polish, as well as others in German, Danish, and Czechoslovak. They also brought culture and cuisine, multiple religious beliefs, which set a standard of family life and behavior which reinforced the evolved roles. Basically men had to work and women had to care for the kids and the house.
I relate this from observations and research to set the background for some extraordinary social changes underway for the last 50 years which we are not addressing and to some extent separates us politically. The environment of work has evolved to fit female skills and moved away from evolved male skills. This results in increased economic roles for women and decreased male relevance in families. Older people and religions hold that the traditional roles for both men and women are better.
The old lady with the cats, said, “It is about time women have a chance.” I said, “There is back side story to the raising strength of women.”
In 1960 only 10.8 % of all mothers were single and the sole providers for families with children under 18.
In 1960, 24.6 % of families with children had both husband and wife working – the wife making more than the husband in only 3.8% of the marriages.
Male labor force participation was 86.4 %. Female participation was 33.9%. From what I can gather, this level of participation in the workforce had been consistent since WWII.
In 1990, 30% of all mothers were single and the sole providers for families with children under 18.
In 1990, 60% of all marriages had two incomes. In a little over 18% of such marriages, the wife made more than the husband.
Male labor force participation was down to 76.4 % and female participation was up to 57.5%.
In 2010, nearly 40% of all families with children under 18 - mothers were single and the sole income provider.
In 2010, the two income families remained about 60%, but the number of marriages in which the wife was the chief wage earner jumped to 25%.
By 2010, male labor force participation had fallen to 73.2% and female participation had grown to 62.2%.
Between 1976 and 2000, “Women’s earnings growth was higher than men’s at all education levels” for college grades it increased 30.4% while men increased only 16.7%.
Between 1979 and 2000, weekly income for males without high school diplomas dropped 26.7%; while women without high school fell only3.8%.
In 2012, the participation rate for foreign born males was 78.5 % whereas the rate for native born males was 68.6%. For females the participation rate for native women was 58.2% and foreign born women’s rate was 54.8%.
This data was gleaned from the Pew Research Study on Breadwinner Moms published May 29th 2013, reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and National Vital Statistics Reports published by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Over the last 50 years manufacturing jobs that required more physical strength than intellectual skill have been exported to lower wage countries. The lost employment was the higher paying jobs which maintained a middle class life even for those with less education. While today a few women are making great money, commiserate with their education and skills, most female employment as with most new jobs are at lower pay scales. Today’s incomes are stratifying with some doing very well and the rest trying to gain or maintain a middle class life.
The real threat to our society is the 30% of native born American men who are no longer in the work force. During the last fifty years that percentage doubled, new immigrants stream into the US who have low skills, but good work ethics. They compete with American born males for the few low skilled manual labor jobs the economy offers and they are willing to get dirty. Their neighborhoods are much like those of my childhood only the language, culture and food are different.
Is this the reason that children in over 40% of all families grow up without fathers? This percentage has quadrupled in the last 50 years. Are these the children of the boys who did not complete high school? What is the long term effect on our housing market if this trend continues to grow? Are drug use, crime rate, and incarceration a result of lack of jobs with some status?
Do our school systems spend too much on emphasizing sports and not enough to prepare boys with skills and a work ethic the economy needs and girls with the desire to be more cautious about who fathers their children? Does every woman’s love of children forgive the absent father from responsibility?
Does the illegal drug trade offer better paying short term employment? Should drugs be legalized, regulated, and taxed like alcohol?
Is cheap energy really a cause for lower wages? It costs less to import than to make.
Are men too preoccupied with looking good, being stronger and have skills and equipment to be better hunters?
Is it time for a civilian work force for all nineteen year olds not working or in school to perform park maintenance and sidewalk repair?
The lady with the cats said, “You think too much. There is no private sector solution to reduce the percentage of men with low skills and no work ethic. I do like your idea for the boys. There is all kinds of jobs the nineteen year olds could do, get paid and get GEDs and vouchers for college. By the way how big is the underground economy?”