Male nursing explodes: from 9% to 10%

Lots of buzz over a New York Times article about men moving into female-dominated occupations, which reported that “more and more men are starting to see the many benefits of jobs long-dominated by women.”

The Times produced this table, which shows the fastest growing occupations for (for some reason) college-educated White men, ages 25-39.

The ones with the pink dots are 70% female or more. The increase of young college educated White men in these occupations over 10 years appears striking, but the numbers are small. For example, compare that increase of (round numbers) 10,000 young White male registered nurses to the 1,900,000 full-time year-round nurses there were in 2010.

Moreover, consider that increase of 10,000 nurses in light of the overall growth of registered nurses from 2000 to 2010: about 500,000. Overall, the representation of men among full-time year-round registered nurses increased from 9.4% to 10.3% during the decade.

The Times article attempts to describe a broad trend of men moving into “pink-collar” jobs:

The trend began well before the crash, and appears to be driven by a variety of factors, including financial concerns, quality-of-life issues and a gradual erosion of gender stereotypes. An analysis of census data by The New York Times shows that from 2000 to 2010, occupations that are more than 70 percent female accounted for almost a third of all job growth for men, double the share of the previous decade.

Bold claims. But check the next sentence: “That does not mean that men are displacing women — those same occupations accounted for almost two-thirds of women’s job growth.” So, lots more men are in these jobs, but even more women are? How does that reflect an “erosion of gender stereotypes”? It seems like it reflects an increase in the size of female-dominated occupations.

In fact, as I reported briefly before, occupational gender segregation dropped barely a hair in the 2000s, from 51 to 50 on a scale of 0 to 100, compared with drops of 5 or 6 points in the decades before 1990. That is a lost decade for integration.

And if you look specifically at the category the Times chose — occupations that are 70% female or more — the percentage of men in those occupations increased, but only from 5.0% to 6.1%. And nurses? In 2010, 0.4% of all full-time year-round working men were nurses, up from 0.3% in 2000. Women are still 11-times more likely to be nurses than men.

Now that’s what you call a “gradual erosion of gender stereotypes.”

Sources: U.S. Census tables for 2000 and 2010 (table B24121).

Coming soon

To get the latest on trends in gender segregation and what they mean, look for the session titled, “Gendered Work: Occupational Segregation and Differential Representation,” at the American Sociological Associations meeting in Denver this summer. Among the papers there will be “Still Stalled? Occupational Gender Desegregation, 1950-2010,” by David Cotter, Joan Hermsen and Reeve Vanneman. Their abstract:

This paper examines trends and patterns in occupational gender segregation over six decades, from the 1950s to the 2000s. It identifies two distinct periods: first a period from 1960 to 1990 of relatively rapid integration of occupations and a period after 1990 of diminishing declines in segregation. In short, while the level of occupational gender segregation fell steadily in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, it declined much more slowly in 1990s and little if any in the 2000s. While most of the desegregation in the early period can be attributed to changing sex composition of occupations, in the later period most of the desegregation comes from shifts in occupational structure. These diminishing declines are observed regardless of the measure of segregation or occupational classifications, and broadly across race, class, and cohorts.

6 thoughts on “Male nursing explodes: from 9% to 10%

  1. You seem to imply that this gender differential in certain occupations is a bad thing in itself. Am I right? I know that female-identified occupations are likely to be paid less than male ones, but if we leave that question aside, is it necessarily a bad thing that nurses are predominantly female? Or is it impossible to ignore the pay issue?

    No argument about the poorly thought-out statistical treatment of the issue. Obviously, they needed to talk to a demographer before they wrote the article.


    1. It is a great hypothetical question, whether there could be a gender division of labor without gender inequality in a modern society. I tend to think not, but there is no way to know. The amount of inequality can be flattened out considerably, especially by narrowing overall inequalities. This may be seen especially in Sweden, where there is a lot of gender segregation but not as much inequality in terms of wages.


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