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Although clichés about the "vulnerability" of women in the economy have been disproved by hard BLS data, we want to believe them. When women lose jobs, the victims are women. When men lose jobs, the victims are, um, women, because they have to make up for that lost male income. The scale of male job losses was evident even when the stimulus bill was passed. That did not stop incoming Congressman Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, from warning Obama that "gender imbalance in occupations related to physical infrastructure development means that the direct job creation will benefit mostly men."
Men still make up 53% of the workforce, and the percentage of society's work they do is considerably higher, owing to women's shorter hours and more frequent sabbaticals for child-rearing. In prosperous times, women may yearn for more time at home. But economic realities have a way of washing away these yearnings. One such reality is the recession. Another is that women receive 58% of the bachelor's degrees in this country, along with half the professional degrees.
Should we expect men to cede some control over an economy they have so thoroughly messed up? No. We have no examples of that ever having happened. What we have plenty of examples of--you can see variants of it all over the developing world--is economies in which women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffeehouses and barbershops. For decades, policymakers have been attentive to the flaws of a patriarchal, middle-class, single-earner, nuclear-family-oriented model of family economics--and their attention remains fixed on it. Whether or not that model dominated American society as much as its critics claimed, we are now leaving it behind. Maybe there is a humane model that can replace it. We have not found one yet.
Caldwell is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard