Recession, gender and work

A couple new reports from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research are worth reading.


For the in-depth economic story of the recession, in historical context, for men, women and gender – see the new report by Heidi Hartmann and colleagues at the IWPR. Includes long-term trends in employment, unemployment and wages by race/ethnicity and gender, and policy recommendations for both the short- and long-term. They hope to offer a counter-balance to the narrow focus on men’s job losses in the recession.

They show that men’s labor force participation rates have been falling for decades – so that’s not surprising. But it’s remarkable that women’s labor force participation rates are lower now than they were 12 years ago – and that’s not because of the recession, which has only brought a slight dip (“participation” includes unemployment people and those with jobs).

When training is tracking

Another new report from IWPR finds that “women’s and men’s participation in training for traditionally ‘female’ and ‘male’ occupations is a major factor contributing to the earnings gap between women and men who received [Workforce Investment Act] services.” Thus, the job training program may be increasing occupational segregation and contributing to the gender pay gap in the long run.

That reminds me that a few years ago I reviewed a book by Sharon Mastracci called Breaking Out of the Pink Collar Ghetto, which promoted training programs to get non-college-educated women entry into male-dominated blue-collar jobs. If that doesn’t seem practical (which it didn’t to me), Mastracci argued, neither is a strategy to promote “college for all,” which we are not close to guaranteeing, while neglecting those women who end up with less education.

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