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Unemployment is a reality for 6 in 10 men

Earlier this year, researchers from Penn State University and Ohio University studied unemployment among men. Their study cohort included men born between 1957 and 1964, and who lived in the United States in 1979. The researchers examined the validity of the assumption that men remain steadily employed during their prime working years.

Their findings challenged the concept of men as “breadwinners” who entered the workforce and remained steadily employed until they exited the workforce at retirement age. In reality, only 41% of men in the study reflected this pattern. The remainder exhibited periods of unemployment, either at the beginning of their prime working years or at the end of their prime working years. 21% of men in the study had periods of chronic unemployment throughout their prime working years. Men whose employment was least stable were those with a high school diploma or less.

Along with periods of unemployment, men also experienced more negative health outcomes, as evidenced by the researchers’ previous studies. Researchers attributed these negative health outcomes to lack of healthcare during periods of unemployment. Additionally, they found that chronic unemployment among men in their 30’s often created health problems in mid-life.

Unemployment delivered more than just poor health outcomes. Men who were not steadily employed throughout their prime working years also experienced negative impacts in their financial security, social status, and personal relationships.

Addressing unemployment by preventing it

The research offers an opportunity for community colleges to appeal to men who are currently in the workforce but have a relatively low level of educational attainment. Ultimately, the research shows that avoiding periods of unemployment can produce physical, financial, and social benefits for men in the workforce.

One important element for men who are most likely to be employed precariously is having a plan and making the necessary preparations to avoid unemployment. I’m not talking about short-term job training programs, because they don’t alleviate precarity in employment. While such a program may slot an unemployed worker into a job, the likelihood that the new position will be inherently more stable than the previous one is low.

Instead, if community colleges created opportunities and pathways for working individuals to earn degrees, they could begin to address the issue of precarity in employment. This is true because workers who have earned a post-secondary degree are much more likely to work stably over time. In addition, a degree is the first step in advancement among many employers.

Of course, community colleges also need to address the issue of income potential among their degree programs. If they could combine programs that address both employment precarity and increased income potential, they may draw more men into community college classrooms.

Photo Credit: somenoise , via Flickr