From Time, reporting on an analysis of Census Bureau data by Reach Advisors:
…according to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., young women’s median full-time salaries are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group. In two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making around 20% more.
Can this possibly be true? I mean, just the other day I was reading and commenting on an article by two Bloomberg columnists that opined there was a problem, on this, the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage, with how few women are found in leadership positions in government and corporate board rooms. How can it be that young women are outearning young men, yet when further along in their careers, seem to rarely make it to the upper reaches of management?
The incongruity could perhaps be attributable to the snapshot nature of any study that takes a static measurement of an ongoing dynamic. In sociology and economics, just as in particle physics, you can never precisely know the position and momentum of a social trend at the same time. The study (snapshot) probably captured things as they now stand fairly well, but failed to say much about where things are headed. It may well be that women are poised to reach upper managements in droves once the cohort examined in the study ages into the possibility.
Or, maybe not. There are a great many reasons between age thirty and fifty that females lose their interest in climbing the career ladder. Most have to do with diapers and soccer matches and homework, etc. It is still quite difficult to manage a career and simultaneously bear and raise children. No matter how progressively-minded men may be (or become), no one has yet figured out how to outfit a man with a womb. Men, at least those that are inclined to father children, are similarly, if not inherently, excluded from being much good at raising babies. Testosterone-addled men with a healthy hetero- sex drive are not likely inclined to spending their days and nights tending to the babies their sex drive produced. It’s in the genes–the women bear and care for the babies and the men go and kill the wooly mammoths–and the ten thousand or so years since we left the steppes for agrarian, civilized bliss have not been long enough to rewire us.
But the problem of excess males has been around much longer than just this post-modern information age. Ever since the agricultural beginnings of civilization, and the ability for one worker to produce a good deal more food than he could eat, there have been problems with excess, unemployed and unemployable, males. The ancient Egyptians used the strong backs of their excess males to build burial palaces for their kings (pyramids), and to defend and expand the empire (which actually exacerbated the problem in some cases). The ancient Chinese put them to work building terra-cotta soldiers for the emperor’s after-life. Both ancient cultures “rewired” quite a few men in ways evolution would have taken eons to accomplish, by cutting off their testicles.
Women were never considered excess, at least not young women of child-bearing years. The future of the culture abided in their wombs.
But, getting back to modern life, is it any surprise young men are losing out to young women in the modern urban workplace? Practically all jobs in metropolitan areas are knowledge jobs, readily accomplished by either sex, if we assume (safely, I think) there is no significant difference between the mental capabilities of men and women. But what young, virile male wishes to sit at a desk in a cubicle staring at a computer screen all day? His body is primed for engagement with the physical world, no matter that his mind is perfectly capable of accomplishing the tasks of a desk job. Alternatively, what young, nubile female wishes to get grungy and sweaty and physically exhausted at a job outdoors when she could sit all day in air-conditioned comfort at a desk with a computer (that can even be used for shopping!)? But because office work generally pays more than other types of more physically-oriented work, some cohort of young males has adapted to be good office mates and workers. They’re called “metrosexuals.”
The study’s authors conclude it is a lack of education among young males relative to females that explain the job and pay differences. It is true that females now get more college degrees than males. But perhaps that’s a symptom, rather than a cause. If getting a degree means the opportunity to do work that you hate, then why bother?
There may be another social dynamic at play here as well. Which potential employee would be more interesting to a middle-aged male manager when faced with hiring administrative help? A young, attractive and socially-cooperative female, or a young, belligerent, competitive and future-threat-to-your-job male? Middle-aged males still occupy a vast swath of the middle management positions to which these young employees must report. Young females have an innate hiring advantage whenever the boss is male. (So feminists–be careful before you yank all the males out of positions of power. You might be doing your sisters a disservice.)
But what can be done with all the excess males? Prison is one answer, and seems to work exceptionally well at keeping black males off the streets. There are more young black males in prison than are in college, helping explain the huge disparity in pay the young women in the majority black cities of Atlanta and Memphis enjoy.
There is always the military, but with technological advancements obviating the need for cannon-fodder infantrymen, and with drones eclipsing the role of dashing fighter pilots, there’s no need for very many.
Put them to work in construction? It’s been tried and appears to have been a dismal failure. Maybe they could just be “landscapers” (what I used to call “cutting grass”)? Well, quite a few now are.
China has got a real problem with excess males too, due to its ill-conceived one-child policy of the last three decades or so. For historical reasons going back to the first emperor, parents that could only have one child wished it to be male. When their first try wasn’t male, they often aborted (very late term–some might say infanticide) or put up for adoption their female child, so they could have another. According to The CIA World Factbook, there are roughly 30 million more males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five than there are females. And China’s economy is on the cusp of becoming far enough developed until a premium is placed on strong minds and not so much on strong backs. Perhaps China can create an eunuch class like they had before. Or maybe they can build a bunch more terra-cotta soldiers.
In any event, it should surprise no one that has paid any attention at all to these last hundred years or so that young females would soon enough become more highly valued in the economy than are young males. It was inevitable, as soon as that first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the details of which, I’ll explain later.