Back during the election campaign, a Fiscal Times columnist warned that even as Hillary Clinton played the woman card, more men were being dealt out of American society:
A key indicator of American male decline is the gender ratio at U.S. colleges. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women accounted for 43% of enrollees in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 1972. The other 57% were men. Forty years later, the ratio had flipped. In 2012, the latest year for which actual data were reported, women made up 57% of the college population, with men representing the remaining 43%. Further, NCES projects that the gap will widen by 2022, when women are expected to reach 61% of the college population. If that projection holds, America will have roughly 14 million female college students and only 10 million male college students.
If men are underrepresented in college, they’re overrepresented in prison, the column continued: “At the end of 2014, almost 93% of inmates in state and federal correctional facilities were male. There were over 1.4 million male prisoners compared with 113,000 female inmates.” State and local prisons are also overwhelmingly filled by men.
It’s not much better at work, with a Bloomberg columnist reporting a “war on men in the workplace.” Outside of high-end tech jobs, men have worse employment prospects and are more likely to be laid off. In fact, after the financial crisis, there was talk of a “man-cession” because men were hit so much harder than women.
One thing that would help is more jobs. Ironically, this is something that President Obama tried to provide early in his administration, pushing for infrastructure jobs only to have his program shot down by feminists who were upset that most of the jobs would have gone to men. They complained, Obama gave in, and much of the money was reprogrammed out of construction and into social services. As Christina Hoff Sommers reported in 2009:
A team of six AP reporters who have been tracking the funds find that the $300 billion sent to the states is being used mainly for health care, education, unemployment benefits, food stamps and other social services. According to Chris Whately, director of the Council of State Governments, “We all talked about ‘shovel-ready’ since September and assumed it was a whole lot of paving and building when, in fact, that’s not the case.” At the same time, the Labor Department’s latest employment report shows unemployment rates of 8% for women and 10.5% for men.
And here we are in 2016, still facing potholes and a shortage of non-college jobs for men.
Now it’s Donald Trump proposing a new infrastructure plan that might actually fix potholes. This time, at least, the feminist groups aren’t likely to call the shots, as The Donald’s ability to ignore feminist complaints is indisputably greater than Obama’s.
I don’t know whether the infrastructure plan is a good one — I had my doubts about whether we could afford Obama’s, and the national debt has pretty much doubledsince then — but I do hope that the Trump administration will devote at least a little bit of attention to the problems facing men and boys, in education, in employment and in other areas.
If we had a college gap that favored men as much as the existing one favors women, it would be treated as a national crisis. If our girls (instead of our boys) attended schools where teachers were overwhelmingly of the opposite sex, there’d be loud demands for government action. And if there were articles with titles such as The End of Women running in major national magazines, their tone would be alarmist, not smug.
Maybe it’s time for a Presidential Task Force on Men and Boys. Before things get worse.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.