Video: Manufacturing Makes Men More Marriageable

Could manufacturing jobs be the key that unlocks Trump’s second term?

We all know that manufacturing is an essential component of a modern, healthy economy. But did you know that manufacturing is a critical factor in women’s choice of husbands? Well, a new paper co-authored by three researchers from MIT, the University of Zürich and UC San Diego concludes that manufacturing employment correlates strongly with men’s desirability for women seeking marriage. In “When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage Market Value of Young Men,” David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson use some sophisticated statistical analysis to investigate how rising trade pressure on US manufacturing affects marriage, fertility, household structure and children’s living circumstances. One result is no surprise: Fewer people work in manufacturing. According to the study, in 1990, 17.4 percent of young men and 8.7 percent of young women aged 18 to 39 were employed in manufacturing. Twenty-four years later, 20 percent fewer men and 31 percent fewer women worked in manufacturing.

The relatively higher disappearance rate of women in manufacturing over that time is an interesting development. I suspect that this reflects increasing automation of finesse hand assembly operations that were traditionally performed by women, as opposed to broader-scope manufacturing operations like millwrighting, forklift driving or shipping and receiving, which are dominated by men. The key of course was, and is, the fundamental difference in pay between manufacturing jobs and similar low- or semi-skilled jobs in the service sector: Manufacturing has always paid higher wages. But since 1980, a third of all manufacturing jobs in the United States have disappeared, over 5 million since the year 2000.

Since men occupied higher paying jobs in the manufacturing space, the job losses disproportionately affect men, a factor, which the study concludes, raises premature mortality among males, reduces fertility and increases the number of mothers who are unwed and the share of children who live in poverty. While it’s anecdotal to the point of redundancy to state that the loss of manufacturing jobs drives many young men to alcohol and drugs, or that young women prefer to marry men with a good job, the study does put some solid statistical data behind these ideas.

 It’s all over popular culture: Billy Joel’s “Allentown” described it in the 1980s and Steve Earle’s “Oxycontin Blues” portrayed it in 2007, but I think this social issue is key to Donald Trump’s popularity in flyover states where manufacturing has been hit the hardest. If his protectionist trade policies succeed in reinvigorating manufacturing in middle America, the effects will be felt socially as well as economically. If it works, and young people experience better paying jobs that reverse the trends away from marriage and family, the result could be a second term for Trump. Again, manufacturing matters, more than social media, popular culture or high technology.

If you’re interested in the reshoring of American manufacturing jobs, I recommend the article “Automotive Aluminum Demand Growing: What It Means for Tier Ones. ”

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.