The Incredible Shrinking Breadwinner
To understand how fatherhood has changed, you have to look at the rise of women. Today, 28 percent of all American wives between 30 and 44 have more education than their husbands, while only 19 percent of husbands in that group have more education than their wives. (The remaining 53 percent have the same level of education as each other.) In 2008, the last year for which figures were available, the U.S. Department of Education found that women received 57 percent of all bachelor's degrees and 61 percent of all master's degrees. They receive 51 percent of all Ph.D.'s.
Women have soared academically during a collapse in the job market that has hit male-dominated vocations the hardest. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of February 2010, the top two professions among the unemployed in the U.S. were construction and manufacturing. And over the last four years, the male-dominated financial sector lost more than 500,000 jobs, found the Chicago job-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. From 2008 to 2009, the unemployment rate increased 83 percent among men age 25 and over, compared with 57 percent among women age 25 and over. As a result, one in five men between the ages of 25 and 54 didn't have a job as of December 2009. That's the highest rate of male unemployment in this country since the BLS began tracking data in 1948.
Not surprisingly, women in dual-earner couples contribute an average of 44 percent of household income today. "The typical family is either a dual-income family or a single parent," says Dr. Gerson. "We're unlikely to return to an era where one worker is enough to support a household. The kinds of secure jobs that once characterized men's work are disappearing, and much more fluid, flexible ways of working are emerging."