What Is a Mancession?

The term mancession refers to a recession that impacts men more than it does women. A mancession is characterized by high unemployment that disproportionately affects the male population. These job losses normally lead to other negative economic conditions that affect men. The characteristic pattern of a recession, long-term structural and technological change, and social trends all play a role in the occurrence of a mancession. The term was originally coined during the Great Recession.

Key Takeaways

  • A mancession occurs when job losses in a recession disproportionately fall on men rather than women.
  • The coin was termed during the Great Recession by Mark Perry, a University of Michigan economist.
  • Recessions normally have a greater impact on male employment over the past 50 years, while female workforce participation and employment has increased in the same period.
  • This trend is partly explained by differences in employment, career, and occupational choice by men and women combined with the impact of recessions across different industries.

Understanding Mancessions

The term mancession was first coined by University of Michigan economist Mark Perry during the Great Recession. The term is used as a monicker for a recession that has a greater detrimental impact on men than it does on women. A mancession is mainly characterized by higher job losses for men, as the world saw during the period that followed the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

When the financial crisis struck the United States, it led to a two-year recession. During this period, 78% of the jobs lost were held by men, and the percentage of unemployed males nearly doubled, according to the Federal Reserve. The unemployment rate for men rose from 4.9% to 8.9%, while the rate for women rose by only half as much, from 4.7% to 7.2%. This period resulted in the biggest gap (as high as 2.5%) between unemployed men and women since World War II.

This is normal to some extent. Since the recession of 1969, the larger share of job losses during recessionary periods fall on men. Male employment fell by an average of 3.1% during the five recessions between 1969 and 1991, compared to an average employment rise of 0.3% for women . Men accounted for 78% of job losses experienced during the 2001 recession—the equivalent to the Great Recession. So the mancession following the financial crisis of 2008 was simply the peak (so far) of a long-term trend.

The historical norm for U.S. business cycles is for men to suffer the brunt of job losses and other direct economic fallout of recessions.

High unemployment during these recessionary periods often has a domino effect, leading to other detrimental economic conditions for men. These include lower purchasing power as well as a loss of consumer confidence, among others.

Special Considerations

Analysts trying to understand the phenomenon are able to offer a few possible reasons for its existence. Although recessions usually follow broadly similar patterns, they often occur with unique individual characteristics based on the circumstances. For instance, some industries are harder hit than others in any given recession. And because men and women often work in different industries and different jobs, they are affected differently. 

Following a near decade-long housing boom, the Great Recession impacted both the housing construction and manufacturing industries heavily. The majority of jobs that were initially cut were in these male-dominated industries accounted for 2.5 million layoffs, leading to disproportionate levels of joblessness among males. The fact that women—both historically and at the time—often worked in industries less affected by a cyclical change in the economy, such as hospitality, education, childcare, and health care, also contributed to the widening gap. 

It was also reported at the time that women in the United States accounted for nearly 60% of the college degrees handed out during that period. This means a greater number of women worked white-collar jobs, especially in publicly-funded industries such as education and health care. These industries typically saw far fewer cutbacks than male-dominated industries. 

But these effects do not fully explain the disparity, because even within the same industries men tended to be more heavily hit than women. Also, similar patterns occurred outside construction and manufacturing. In the service sector, male employment dropped 3.1% versus 0.7% for women, a similar proportion to the overall economy.