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New Census Data Shows Men’s Wages Slowly Declining Since the Recession

Despite a low unemployment rate, the availability of high paying jobs for men just isn't there in the same way.


Though recent data from the Census Bureau shows evidence of a slowly strengthening middle class and a narrowing wage gap between men and women, it also shows that men are making less than they have in the past. Though they still make about $10,000 more than women on average, earnings for men have declined in the 10-years since the 2008 recession.

When wages are adjusted for inflation, the Census data finds that between 1973 to 2017, men’s yearly earnings fell by 5 percent, or by around $3,000. Moreover, they’ve fallen well into 2017 and the first year of the Trump administration. At the moment,  it’s hard to say how much of that is specifically related to Trump’s economic policies, as men’s wages fell in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016 too.

“We’re talking about a 40-year period of people working full-time who are not doing better than their fathers and grandfathers did, and are basically doing worse,” said Mark Rank, an inequality expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s a really striking pattern going on over a long period of time.”

Despite the fact that women’s climb to pay equality has been slow, while men’s wages have been dropping theirs have increased. Men’s average earnings have dropped $2,000 since 2010, but women’s have increased by $500 in that same time frame. The trouble really is that no one can seem to agree about what is causing the decline. Some suggest it’s low union membership coupled with the narrowing availability of manufacturing jobs, but according to some experts, there just aren’t enough high paying jobs out there right now.

“It’s certainly true that for working-class males a few decades ago a high school diploma was a ticket to a pretty good union job in manufacturing, and that’s not the case anymore,” said Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute. “But there is no great solution — no single lever we can pull — to help working-class men with high school diplomas suddenly gain upper-middle-class incomes.”