Manufacturing and construction might be among the recession's hardest-hit industries. But even outside those sectors, men have lost twice as many jobs as women; economists say they are seeing gender imbalances at all socioeconomic levels.
The percentage of men giving up on the job search has also risen sharply. Since December 2007, the male unemployment rate – the percentage of people who are looking for, but have not yet found, work – has increased steadily during this recession, hitting 9.4 percent in April. But the number of men who, each month, go from the "unemployed" category to not looking for work at all has also grown significantly.
Researchers say it will be months, if not years, before they have any solid data on what these men are doing – whether they are going to school, staying home with children, or simply giving up. All they can say for sure is that the changes are huge.
"We've never seen a gender imbalance like the one we're seeing now," says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress. "What we don't know yet is how this will play out in families."
"The whole generation of kids who grew up in that associated their mothers' work with their fathers' depression," Coontz says. "Instead of being proud of their mothers' work, they were embarrassed."
Those children grew up to be the adults of the 1950s, and even less open to mothers working outside the home, she says. Those women who did have jobs were taught to avoid any sort of employment that might be interesting enough to distract from family duties. They were also cautioned against taking raises. "The most important thing you could do was to protect the man's ego," Coontz says. "That's really changed in the last 30 years."