A few weeks ago, I wrote about how college educated women now outnumber college educated men and how that impacted their dating culture. I later realized there’s a bigger issue going on - men are falling behind.
The Census Bureau found there are 4 college educated women for every 3 college educated men. This doesn't meant that fewer men are going to college. It means more women are.
Pew found the number of female college enrollment following high school increased to 71% in 2012 from 63%. Male enrollment the fall semester after graduating high school remained at 61%.
The same type of men that historically went to college continue to do so. They’re not at risk. Actually, they’re living it up (see the dating article). The real issue is the type of men who wouldn't go to college in the past and will fall behind as a result.
Historically, most men did not go to college because there was a higher opportunity cost. When they graduated high school (if they even graduated), they could work in manufacturing, learn a trade, or join the military.
Women typically did not work in these fields. It use to be because of flat out discrimination. Nowadays it is more out of their own preference for white collar work, better performance in school, and also - flat out discrimination.
The big problem we face now is that blue collar jobs continue to dwindle, making it so young women outpace young men.
Despite the fact that manufacturing output in America more than doubled since the 1970s, machine automation (better known as robots) reduced employment in these sectors. The percentage of the US workforce working in manufacturing declined from 24% in 1973 to less than 10% today.
Transport is the next male dominated industry to go. Drivers with local routes that deliver and stock their companies shelves at retail stores will continue to be employed, but long distance routes will eventually be replaced by self-driving trucks.
Plumbing, carpentry, welding, and other skilled based industries will likely survive this wave of automation, but there are not enough of these jobs to go around.
Ironically, these economic trends helped maintain the return on investment (ROI) for a college degree. Even though college tuition costs skyrocketed over the past twenty years, the earnings on a degree did not change that much. However, ROI is at all time highs because the wages of people who did not go to college continue to fall.
Men's College Enrollment Starts in Grade School
With college becoming more important for maintaining a decent standard of living, future men will find it difficult because they are not performing in school. OECD released a study that discussed these trends. They said:
In all countries and economies that participated in PISA 2012, girls outperformed boys in reading by an average of 38 score points (across OECD countries) – the equivalent of one year of school – as they have done consistently throughout all the PISA cycles since 2000.”
The only subjects where boys outperformed was math and science. That does not mean all boy outperformed girls in those subjects, but that top performing boys outperformed top performing girls in those courses. (They concluded that this was due to a ‘confidence gap’ and teacher bias, not innate skill.)
OECD found that boys spent less time on homework and put less effort into education because their peer groups discouraged it. (When they tested boys and girls anonymously, the performance gap narrowed.) They also stated that videogames contributed to this, but I myself am skeptical of that claim.
Will This Close the Income Gap Between Men and Women?
Will this trend close or reverse the income gap? Will this make the gender ratio of executives and upper management in corporate America 50:50?
I really don’t know. Millennials are the first generation in history where both men and women's income started off equal. However, the way these men and women approach their careers generates different results.
OECD found that 30% of boys but only 25% of girls in 15 OECD countries participated in an internship program. 40% of boys and only 34% of girls “shadowed” workers of another job. They wrote:
"boys appear to be not only more likely to be enrolled in education pathways that are more “practical” and work-related....They are more apt to try to work in a related job. Being interns and shadowing workers in their jobs not only help boys to gain a better understanding of the labour market, but these practical activities are the first steps towards building the networks and connections that could be useful when the job search becomes serious. It is as if boys ask themselves, “Could I do this?” while girls ask themselves, “Would I be appropriate for such a position? Would others see me as suitable for this job or to pursue this occupation?"
In addition to this, Pew found that 34% millennial women are less likely than men to aspire to a management position, whereas 24% of millennial men say the same thing.
This effect is compounded by the fact family circumstances will further affect their careers. Even younger families revert back to traditional family structures as they get older. Pew found that 39% of mothers said they took off time from work to care for family, where only 24% of fathers said something similar.
A bachelor’s degree is becoming gateway to a white collar career, which is why I believe women will one day out earn men on average. More women will meet that basic entry-level requirement. Within that professional world though, I anticipate men continuing to outearn women because of they are more interested in moving up the corporate latter, more focus on building their careers, and are less likely to share the burden with family matters (I'm not saying it's ethical.)
Another way to put it, men will be more likely to earn less than women, but the highest earning individuals will most likely be men.