America’s job market is changing – again. It was just a few decades ago that women entered the workforce in large numbers. Now they are increasingly the primary earners in their families – with a full forty percent acting as the chief breadwinner in their homes. At the same time, men are seeing their place in the workforce diminish: the percentage of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the last decade. And according to a new documentary that focuses on this issue of our time, “The Big Flip”, the average woman’s income is rising at a pace that will put them ahead of men in average earnings in just 15 years.
This is great news, right? Women are better educated than before. They are more in control of their lives. They are increasingly successful in business, commerce, entertainment and other sectors. There is a lot to be happy about. And it’s great that more families can choose what works for them. The traditional father-as-provider model may not work for every family. More couples now have the flexibility to choose a different path.
Unfortunately, a look behind the data shows it’s not all good news. For too many, “The Flip” isn’t about two earners who decide which of them will get to spend more quality time raising their children. Instead, it’s a forced choice: one made because a husband has surrendered in the face of an awful economy.
The Great Recession is making many changes in this economy. It’s accelerated one trend that‘s been underway since the 1950s: the declining participation of men in the workforce. There are plenty of reasons that men have slowly been dropping out: increasing use of disability, more jobs requiring a college education, and simple aging. But during the Great Recession, the male “dropout rate” from the labor force has jumped. Now, for the first time, fewer than ninety percent of men in their prime work years are in the labor force. Many left not by choice, but because they were driven out. The vast majority of the jobs lost during the Great Recession were lost by men.