May 20, 2011

Newsweek Worries about 5% Unemployment Among College Educated White Males

I was in the doctors office recently and was flipping through the magazines.   I found the Newsweek article Can Manhood Survive the Recession?  and I started to read it while I waited.   It seemed like an interesting story about how middle aged college educated men are having a hard time in the recession.   I read through a page or two and then came across the lines

"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first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, according to previously unpublished Labor Department stats.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."

I wondered if I was missing some major detail about how 5% unemployment was a tragedy.   I wasn't.   The entire story reads as if its written from an insulated position of people who are not really used to the reality of unemployment.   5% unemployment is something that most Americans would be thrilled to see but this article paints that 5% unemployment rate in the specific demographic as some sort of tragedy.

When I say that they painted it as a tragedy I mean it.  They used over the top language like "Detroit of the soul" and ""this hitherto privileged demo isn't just on its knees, it's flat on on its face."  or "“if they lose their job, they are toast.”   "The gnawing fear that this may be the beginning of a slow, shaming crawl to early Social Security."  You get the idea.

A few pages later they had a sub-story titled Love Means Never Having To Say ‘Get a Job’   That was a story written by the wife of one of the tragically afflicted upper middle class middle age white men with college degrees who had been subjected to actual unemployment.   Few notable details in that story.  The man had been a CEO at one company.  He voluntarily quit his job at Google during the recession because his job had  become "less exciting".   Gasp!    Then he cleaned his garage.   Within 6 months he found another job but it was 2 hours away from home.  I think the 2 hour thing was supposed to make us feel bad.   Oh.. but it was his "dream job".   Not only did this guy voluntarily quit his own job in the middle of the recession but he was able to find another in a relatively short 6 months.   This is a success story if you ask me.  Plus he had some time off to clean out the garage to boot!   Seriously... he quit Google?   Are we supposed to feel sorry for him or angry at him?  I don't know.

Reading the article I had a couple questions to myself:  Why should I care that a group of college educated men are 'suffering' with 5% unemployment when the rest of he country is suffering with much higher unemployment?   and    Why would Newsweek even publish such a story?     I don't know the answer to either of those questions.   If I was a Newsweek subscriber I would consider canceling my subscription.

I wasn't alone in questioning the article.   Feministing wrote Maya and Lori on the “Beached White Male”: Newsweek spews steam out of its blowhole and FAIR wrote Newsweek Bravely Highlights the Plight of the Beached White Male.   Both articles point out that unemployment in black workers is higher.

Maybe it was all supposed to be a joke?   The article was not dated April 1st.  I had to check to make sure.

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