How Men Are Changing What It Means To Be A Man In The Mancession

What's a man to do?

The Great Recession has been much harder on Adam than on Eve, so much so it's come to be identified with the term, "mancession." The unemployment rate has consistently clocked in at a higher rate for men. At the time this past November when it was 10.4 percent for men vs. 8 percent for women, a team of researchers from the University of Kansas profiled 20 recently unemployed men to see how they are coping.

The findings were presented at the 106th annual Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, held in the closing days of August.

And what the study found was that the small set of men are redefining their masculinity.

"They totally took what we would consider women's work and made it men's work," said study co-author Kristen Myers, an associate professor of sociology at Northern Illinois University, according to a report in HealthDay Reporter.

As was noted at the conference, the shift has been a heavy burden for the men. Among the toughest experiences has been the sheer recognition that they are depending on their female partners. Many have acclimated themselves to their new role by now viewing housework as vital, reports from the conference noted.

"Before unemployment, while they very much valued 'women's work,' men still constructed their identity in a way that allowed them to remain in charge," said Ilana Demantas, a researcher with the University of Kansas, according to a report put out by Eurekalert. "Working was a way to sort of say, 'I'm the man.' But now managing the family is a way to see themselves as men. So they've actually used 'women's work' to see themselves as contributing to the family. This seems to be a silver lining in a very bleak recession."

The men were also coping by reassessing their view of the standard work that was once central to their own identity.

"These men praised women's work in ways that minimized the women's role in getting and keeping that work, even in a larger context of 9.8% unemployment," wrote the authors, who recognized that the sample was too small to be representative.

The dynamics of the mancession have been widely looked into by many news outlets. In its April 17 cover story, "Dead Suit Walking," Newsweek magazine questioned whether "manhood could survive the lost decade."

While the employment numbers for men and women over 20 have since leveled off -- according to the BLS' most recent monthly report in July, male unemployment stood at 8.5 percent, while the figure stool at 8.6 percent for women -- the statistics still represent a new employment paradigm for men.

In profiling a set of middle-aged professionals who now find themselves out of work, Newsweek included some telling statistics. "Through the first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, according to previously unpublished Labor Department stats. That's more than 5 percent jobless -- double the group's pre-recession rate," wrote writers Rick Martin and Tony Dokoupil.

While not minimizing the plight of minorities and those of lower income brackets, Newsweek signed onto the view that the experience of white professionals has been particular to Great Recession.

Citing a post on the professional-finance blog Calculated Risk, Dokoupil and Martin said as these men hit 45, "if they lose their job, they are toast."

Next:Is High Unemployment Recession-Proof?

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