Friday, June 20, 2008

Economic Downturn by Age, Race, and Gender

This week my colleagues at the Council on Contemporary Families released a briefing paper, "Families and the Current Economic Crisis," examing the maelstrom of financial dilemmas facing Americans today, along with the far-reaching human impact. The report is available at www.contemporaryfamilies.org. Here's a quick rundown of the different effects of the current economic crisis by age, race, and gender:

Gender

Men and women are affected by the job market cuts differently. In the recession of 2001-2004, women lost jobs at a higher rate than men. Today the reverse is true. From November 2007 through April 2008, men lost 700,000 jobs, especially in traditional "family-wage" occupations such as manufacturing and construction. Women, by contrast, gained almost 300,000 jobs, since female-dominated fields such as health care have remained strong. No one is "winning" any gender battles here, though. The pay gap between men and women had been narrowing for several years, but this past year it began to widen again. And in families where women have become the main providers, the results are mixed. Some families report increased respect by husbands and children for women's economic contributions. But men who have a strong identification with the "male breadwinner" role experience a decline in marital quality when their wife begins to bring in a larger share of family income.
Age
Thirty million Americans are over age 65, and with the average social security payment set at $1,079, there is not much of a margin to cover rising medical, prescription, food, and gas bills. Since more than a third of retired Americans help their children financially, according to a recent AARP poll, their financial troubles may trickle down to their children and grandchildren as well. The AARP reports that the majority of baby boomers (aged 44-62) say they are struggling to make ends meet. Sixty percent have cut back on extras and 25 percent report having trouble paying their mortgage. Young adults aged 25-35 have their own issues. Many are still paying off student loans, and 35 percent are not saving for retirement at all.

Race

As is so often the case, African Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk both for job loss and foreclosure than are whites. Studies consistently show that even where black and white families earn the same yearly income, African-Americans have much lower levels of accumulated wealth, largely because their mobility has been more recent and they did not inherit homes or assets from earlier generations. More than half of all mortgages granted to African Americans in 2006 were sub-prime. In fact, a family living in an upper-middle class African American neighborhood is twice as likely to have a sub-prime mortgage as a lower-middle class white family. Hispanics were also over-represented in the sub-prime housing market. Given the continuing residential segregation in America, foreclosures on such homes will disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA (coontzs@msn.com; 360 556-9223).

4 comments:

Sally said...

Sadly, the gender stats are not surprising. Reading that, I felt like I was back in Women's History and the switch of spheres right before, during, and right after the Depression. Unfortunately, we know how that ended (many men just walked out on their families).

Deborah Siegel said...

Really good point Sally. I wonder how much thinking there is about the macro and micro historical frame here as our policymakers are trying to deal with this all...

Richard Jennings said...

I see thousands of high paying jobs on employment sites -

http://www.realmatch.com
http://www.monster.com
http://www.simplyhired.com

Lots of opportunity if you know where to look

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