Sunday, August 5, 2007

Just don't get married, have kids, or move to the suburbs.

Or, as an alternative, be a man.

Via Feministing and Lawyers, Guns and Money, the New York Times has a report on how young urban women are actually outpacing men in wage-earning. New York men make 85 cents on a woman's dollar, and Houston men make 83 cents. Then that women becomes a mother, and she falls behind men in earning again.

I don't think any of this is good news. First of all, fathers still make more money than anyone, single young women included. So apparently becoming a father increases your earning power, but becoming a mother torpedos it. Second, that women fall off drastically when they leave their twenties only confirms the existence of a "glass ceiling" that seems to keep women out of the upper echelons of job advancement. And finally, single young urban women are the only group that is ahead of men. Everywhere else, they seem to still be ten or twenty cents behind on the dollar.

And what is wrong with young urban men? The Supreme Court is certainly doing everything it can to help them out. And a couple hundreds of years of old-boy networking and being the traditional figure in every higher-paid job can't hurt. The article has a couple of answers. One is that women may start earlier, because they plan out time from their career to have a family. The other—and this statistic bothers me every time I hear it—is that young women just tend to be better educated nowadays.

Women are attending 4-year colleges at higher rates than men, which raises some interesting questions about masculinity, and especially about how male gender roles affect high-schoolers. Is it just because men are more likely to feel welcome in skilled blue-collar work, like construction work or electrical engineering? Or are men embracing a less bookish self-image because only queers like English class? Or maybe a little of both? Either way, it's just as unacceptable for men to be systemically discouraged from higher education—if indeed that's what is happening—as it was for women to be shut out. I'll rant about the masculine mystique some other time, but suffice it to say that I think we talk a lot more about femininity's problems than we do about masculinity's, and it might be necessary to try to fix both to fix either.

The NYT article ends frustratingly. What's the important kernel the Times leaves its reader with? What "sums it all up and blows it all wide open?" (Extra points if you know what musical that is). Well, apparently being richer than men their age is making it harder for women to get married. Figures.

UPDATE: Zuzu also posts on this topic.

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