Monday, April 18, 2011

Can manhood survive the lost decade?

Newsweek and The Daily Beast have taken up (again?) the problems of middle aged and middle class males during the current "mancession" - the hypothesis that the recent economic collapse has impacted men (especially young [18-24] and middle aged [41-59]) more than any other groups.

However, being in that space between these two groups (i.e., in their 30s) has not helped men in NYC, where men in the 35-to-54 "kill zone" are losing jobs faster than any other group, including teenage girls (data from the Fiscal Policy Institute).

These are scary times - I will be 44 when I hit the job market again with a second graduate degree - in an economy where college educated men over 45 are nearly unemployable. On the bright side, at least for me, is that I am entering a female-dominated field (psychotherapy) where men are often in demand.

Dead Suit Walking

by Rick Marin and Tony Dokoupil

If this isn't the Great Depression, it is the Great Humbling. Can manhood survive the lost decade? In this week's Newsweek, Rick Marin and Tony Dokoupil look at what the Mancession has done to the middle aged male. Plus: chat live with the authors Thursday April 21st at 1pm ET about the recession's impact on men.

Brian Goodell, of Mission Viejo, Calif., won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. An all-American, God-fearing golden boy, he segued into a comfortable career in commercial real estate. Until 2008, when he was laid off. As a 17-year-old swimmer, he set two world records. As a 52-year-old job hunter, he's drowning.

Brock Johnson, of Philadelphia, was groomed at Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Co., and was so sure of his marketability that he resigned in 2009 as CEO of a Fortune 500 company without a new job in hand. Johnson, who asked that his real name not be used, was certain his BlackBerry would be buzzing off its holster with better offers. At 48, he's still unemployed.

Article - Marin Dokoupil White Men

Two coasts. Two men who can't find jobs. And one defining moment for the men in the gray flannel suits who used to run this country. Or at least manage it. Capitalism has always been cruel to its castoffs, but those blessed with a college degree and blue-chip résumé have traditionally escaped the worst of it. In recessions past, they've kept their jobs or found new ones as easily as they might hail a cab or board the 5:15 to White Plains. But not this time.

The suits are "doing worse than they have at any time since the Great Depression," says Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. And while economists don't have fine-grain data on the number of these men who are jobless—many, being men, would rather not admit to it—by all indications this hitherto privileged demo isn't just on its knees, it's flat on its face. Maybe permanently. Once college-educated workers hit 45, notes a post on the professional-finance blog Calculated Risk, "if they lose their job, they are toast."

Many of these guys may be great on the back nine but totally lack the skill set to get them through anything like this.

The same guys who once drove BMWs, in other words, have now been downsized to BWMs: Beached White Males.

Through the first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, according to previously unpublished Labor Department stats. That's more than 5 percent jobless—double the group's pre-recession rate. That might not sound bad compared with the plight of younger, less-educated workers and minorities, but it's a historic change from the last recession, when about half as many lost their oxford shirts. The number of college-educated men unemployed for at least a year is five times higher today than after the dotcom bubble. In New York City, men in the 35-to-54 kill zone have lost jobs faster than any other group, including teenage girls, according to new data from the Fiscal Policy Institute.

As if middle age isn't bad enough. The moribund metabolism. The purple pill that keeps your food down. The blue pill that keeps another part of your anatomy up. Now you can't get an effing job? Stuck in your own personal Detroit of the soul, with the grinding stress of enforced idleness. The wife who doesn't look at you quite the same way. The poignantly forgiving sons. The stain on your masculinity for becoming the bread-loser. The night sweats and dark refuge of Internet porn. The gnawing fear that this may be the beginning of a slow, shaming crawl to early Social Security.

There's been little research on the psychic toll of the Mancession. But this month Newsweek conducted an exclusive poll of 250 unemployed (and underemployed) men ages 41 to 59. Most of them are married, white, middle-class, and looking for work. The results provide a rare window into the BWM and a characteristically male contradiction between feelings and action. As in: I'm never going to get a job as good as my old one, but I refuse to sell the house! Or: I'm depressed, I can't sleep, my sex drive is shot, and my wife now has to support the family, but I don't need marriage counseling! I'll just give Mommy a back rub, do some housework, and we'll be fine!

It might be tempting to snark at these former fat cats suffering lean times. But when Beached White Males suffer, so do their wives and children. Lives, marriages, and futures are at stake. Examining who these guys are, and what washed them up, is not an exercise in schadenfreude. It's a cautionary tale. To quote Arthur Miller on the most famous Beached White Male, "Attention must be paid."

Read the whole article.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The trouble with such articles is that they always consider men's lives in isolation in respect to others. A fictional second part of this article would be on the effects that flow on into women's lives and society as a whole as of a result of the "mancession".