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Does the 21st Century Mark the 'End of Men'? Not Quite -- But Women Are on the Rise

Hanna Rosin's new book targets the huge cultural and gender shifts in American life.

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Maybe we need to take a closer look at men falling behind. No matter how well women prepare for the job market, they don’t seem to be able to bring home the male-sized paychecks, especially once they have children.

And while some have changed, most men still seem to have the power to keep themselves out of the kitchen and avoid the bulk of family caregiving. On the average day, fewer than one in five men do any form of housework such as cleaning or laundry, compared to nearly half of all women. Fathers spend about half as much time as mothers providing primary care to children. Unsurprisingly, men spend more time on hobbies and leisure activities than do women.

In other words: No matter what they’re earning, in terms of quality of life and clout, men are still coming out on top.

What has gotten harder for both men and women over the last few decades—and what we see reflected in the kinds of statistics on men’s nonprogress that Rosin and others invoke in order to back up their “end of men” theory—is the ability of a person without a college degree to earn a middle-class salary. These days this is also true of many college graduates: 20 percent of male college graduates, after four years of studying and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, actually earn less than the typical high school graduate.

Also new (as of the past few decades): Families need two earners to make ends meet. The real change for the American family is that gone are the days where a young family could reasonably expect a higher income than their parents. And gone are the days when nearly all families could afford to have a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver, meaning that most workers today have responsibilities at home, too, although these tend to fall more so on women than men.  

Rosin doesn’t acknowledge the very real and enduring power dynamics that, on the micro household level, allow many men to sit on their butts while women do it all, and on the macro level, lead to an enduring gender gap even as women have become more flexible. It may be that like Éowyn, today’s woman is slaying the beast, but the story ends with a man on the throne.

Heather Boushey is Senior Economist at American Progress.

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