Money, Men, Women and Work

In an interview earlier this month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant made the comment that one of the reasons children in America are struggling is because mothers are working outside the home and in the process, leaving the little ones to complete their homework without her assistance. It riled up some, for others though, they recognized the trend. Whether or not the governor had read the latest report on men, women, money and employment isn’t known – but it seems as though he had definitive reasons for his comments.

Giving the Governor a Parden

“I’m going to get in trouble if I…You want me to tell the truth,” Bryant said. “You know I think parents became…Both parents started working and the mom is in the workplace. He quickly quantified that statement by including an “it’s not a bad thing” kind of comment.

Bryant may have good intentions, and despite those he angered, there’s actually a bit more to this sociological change. It’s important to understand the perspective from which he was coming from, too. Bryant was able to push a bill into law with no efforts of letting Missisippi residents know that he would be supporting a statewide effort designed to prevent teen pregnancies. On July 1, if a girl 16 or younger delivers a baby, a DNA sample is taken from both mother and baby. It’s then run through the databases in search of a match for the father. If he’s over 21, he will face prison time and classifed as a sexual predator. It’s complicated, though does speak volumes about the governor’s conservative nature – even if there’s no money in the budget to support the DNA tests that cost $1,000 each.

Where Are the Men

As it turns out, men are all but disappearing from the American work force. While we’re always taught to not believe everything we see on TV, most of us can remember watching those classics: Bewitched, Father Knows Best and even I Dream of Jeannie. The one common denominator was the man of the house left for work each and every day while Mom was at home with the kiddies. Art imitates life and during the 50s and 60s, those shows did manage to reveal an authentic look into the male/female dynamics. In fact, in 1956, 98 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked full time. Today, that number is about 87 percent.

Those days are long gone, though and some researchers say a growing prison population has something to do with it too. Of course, the majority are unemployed and have been for significant periods of time. “They’ve given up looking,” said one psychologist asked to evaluate the report. The less educated one is, the more likely he is to be arrested at some point.


While the numbers have been consistent, the recession hastened the process. The number of men filing for disability is rising fast, too. It’s on the rise with women too, but not like it is with their male counterparts. Men who might have found a job in a better labor market were refusing those jobs and instead opted to take advantage of the safety nets offered by the government, according to David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor and co-author of Wayward Sons. His books focus on sociological perspectives on gender gaps, education and the general workforce.

Good Medicine

Just because medical advances have made it easier for workers to return to the office, the truth is that there are no jobs to return to. Today, there are more than 14 million Americans on disability – and a mere 2 percent ever come off of the disability roles. Wondering what the cost is? Consider this: the government sends out more money for disability payments than it does for food stamps and welfare – combined. Here’s the crux: most of those 14 million are not working, nor are they being counted in the unemployment numbers. That definitely sheds light on just how troublesome the American dream has become.

One judge in Alabama who oversees various disability hearings will often ask applicants what their disabilities are. Many say back pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, to which Judge Ryan says, “I have all of those problems too”. It’s his way of reminding the offenders that they do have choices.

His county, Hale, is located in central Alabama and a full 25 percent of that county’s residents is on disability. The small town comes alive when checks are received each month. He explains,

On the day government checks come in every month, banks stay open late, Main Street fills up with cars, and anybody looking to unload an old TV or armchair has a yard sale.


College graduates, as we know, also are facing an uphill battle. For those already in the workforce, they’re leaving in droves. Only 80 percent of men with a college degree are working. For perspective, in 1992, nearly 88 percent of men were working. “The proportion of guys doing nothing has risen,” said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

If you’re wondering why so many are easily finding their way to disability payments, you should know that as far as the federal government is concerned, you’re disabled if you have a medical condition that makes it impossible to work. That is an impossible feat; after all, there’s only one person feeling pain and it just so happens to be the same person hoping to get a judge to sign off on those monthly payments. Back pain and mental illnesses are more popular these days because a doctor can’t simply “see” mental illness.

One of the straightest lines to overcome this is found in solutions for those unemployed long term. It’s easy to say, of course, the real challenge is found in actually creating the jobs. The same holds true for those released from prison, who are almost always being backed into a corner when it comes to searching for a job.

Really, when it gets down to it, the truths remain steady, whether one is a college graduate, a parolee or a single mom – the bills have to be paid, hard decisions made and a healthy approach to finances, saving, credit card debt and every other financial aspect.

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