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Is Unemployment Gendered?

-Lauren Fredericks and Charlie Radcliffe

Mainstream media has been reporting that there has been an employment crisis within the doctoral graduate community. That being said, there has been an overall decrease in unemployment of college graduates with doctoral degrees since 2012. This trend differs between gender, as shown by the graphs below.

An important part of these graphs to note are the specific peaks and valleys of the data, specifically how the timing differs for men and women. For example, the major peak in unemployment levels for men occurs in December of 2011, whereas for women it occurs in January of 2012. Because male unemployment declines by January, it can be inferred that the rise in female unemployment was, in part, caused by the increased employment of men. Similarly, in the case of September 2014, the level of unemployment for men is at a peak, where the level of unemployment for women is at a valley. Although it makes sense that when a man is hired for a specific position, a woman is not hired for that position (and vice versa), this does not explain why the levels of unemployment for women are altogether higher than those for men.

The maximum number of unemployed men is the same for women (December 2011 and January 2012, respectively: 49,000), however the minimum number of unemployed men (April 2017: 4,000) is smaller than the number of women (September 2014: 8,000). Part of this can be explained by the volume of women with doctorates when compared to men: in 2016, 52.1% of people who graduated with a doctorate were women1. Additionally, even though women outnumber men in seven out of eleven doctoral fields, women enter fields of lower demand. These factors contribute to the higher rate of competition among women and their consequential unemployment. These structural factors perpetuate the cyclical nature of unemployment rates of women within the doctoral graduate community.


1Perry, Mark J. "Women Earned Majority of Doctoral Degrees in 2016 for Eighth Straight Year and Outnumber Men in Grad School 135 to 100." American Enterprise Institute. 28 Sep. 2017.

22 thoughts on “Is Unemployment Gendered?

  1. myerse20

    I never would have thought that the male and female unemployment rates in doctoral degrees would be somewhat inverse, as I didn't expect gender to really have a role in unemployment today. However, your explanation of the data makes so much sense- awesome job explaining the causes and effects seen in the graphs.

  2. clintong20

    I find it insane, specifically when observing that college graduates graph. The inconsistency of the data frightens me, as a college student, because it seems as if we legitimately have no control of our future job market. Obviously, there are peaks as well so when it comes to gender the data is critically revealing. Great post.

  3. trammellc20

    This explanation was so interesting, because I did not know that more women graduate with doctors than men but are still employed less as a doctor. The graphs really highlight the gap, and your explanation of the differences was great.

  4. hallk20

    I found this data to be especially interesting, as I never would have expected there to be a 2% gap between women and men graduating with doctoral degrees. The competitive nature of the fields women typically enter makes sense, but I would have imagined there to be more noticeable improvement in this data in the last 6 years. It would be really interesting to see how pay or pay gap differed between women with a doctoral degree and men with the same doctoral degree. Perhaps this is where we would see some improvement in recent years, though we still have a long way to go in terms of equal pay.

  5. spencerc20

    It's really interesting to see how varied unemployment by gender is for such a specific group of people. Since, in media at least, it seems like the demand for doctoral degrees is very high you wouldn't think there would be much unemployment there. However, it now seems that the supply of doctoral degrees outweighs the demand. It's also interesting that even though the maximum peak of unemployment for both men and women is at 49,000, but the minimum unemployment for women is almost double that of the minimum for men.

  6. Cade Hornak

    I find it very interesting how as soon as male unemployment fell off its decline in December 2011, women's unemployment hit its maximum. Clearly, on the aggregate, companies in recent years prefer to hire men over their women counterparts for the same jobs. However, if more women have earned doctorates than men even by a slight margin, does any data suggest that there could be a shift in the near future in women entering fields of higher demand rather than lower demand? Thanks!

    1. radcliffec20

      Cade, unfortunately the only way to enact this shift would be to de-stigmatize the fields of math and science. This gendered stigma begins as early as elementary school, where girls are repeatedly told they are not good at math and are discouraged from partaking in the sciences. It is important to note that the stigma is not a female stigma; in fact, men are equally discouraged from entering the lower demand fields like the arts and humanities. Despite the efforts to promote female STEM role models, recent studies have shown that these fields will remain male-dominated unless there is a complete overhaul of the education system. This could be achieved by alerting teachers of their influence over children's perceptions of their capabilities as well as ending the gender binary and the consequent limitations it creates in the workforce.

  7. Evans Alison

    I also found this post intriguing. I have known that the amount of women outnumber the amount of men who graduate from medical school, but I never knew about these unemployment levels. It seems as if there are peaks and troughs for both men and women and that the level of men and women employed is getting closer to equal. This will be an interesting dynamic in the coming years that I am excited to follow.

  8. Jack Ware

    This post sheds light on some interesting issues in our modern economy. I did not know that women outnumbered men in seven out of eleven doctoral fields. It was interesting to observe the cyclical nature of unemployment and how it seems that women trail behind men in the cycle. The fact that the minimum number of men unemployed in the period was half that of women appears to be a matter of concern. I am curious as to how this data would appear based on lesser levels of education like bachelors degree or high school education.

  9. bearupk20

    I found this post very interesting. I wouldn't have thought that those with doctorate degrees, or degrees of any sort of higher education, would experience the same effects of the economy as those without higher education degrees. From the outside, it seems like the demand for these individuals in certain positions would protect them, however this blog posts proves that is not the case. I would be interested to know the philosophy behind why the unemployment cycles for men do not match up with that of women.

  10. Katie Paton

    I find it interesting but not surprising that the unemployment level for females with doctorates is higher than the unemployment level for males with doctorates. This reminded me of the gender wage gap they we examined in my sociology class. It is also important to note that the volatility of the unemployment level for women has recently decreased. In my sustainability class we looked at company’s social corporate responsibility reports and since 2013, the importance of diversity and inclusion in the hiring place has increased on many companies materiality matrices.

    1. radcliffec20

      Katie, this is an excellent point! This spring I went to Copenhagen to investigate the difference between Danish CSR practices and American CSR practices and I noted the same trend. That being said, it is important to evaluate inclusion in the workforce in terms of inclusion in higher management. Although more and more companies have included women in the lower rungs of employment, the vast majority of companies (even jewelry brans like Pandora) are still run by white men. So, even though women are being increasingly included in the work force, it is possible that this inclusion serves only as a means to submit women further.

  11. Jack Ware

    This post is very interesting and it suggests that our economy could be moving in a different direction. The loss of the baby boomer generation could have significant impacts on job availability. An important question emerges as to whether new immigration can fill this void. I look forward to following this issue in the future.

  12. laytonr20

    It is somewhat surprising to me that the difference in hiring patterns between men and women with doctorates, and the cyclical pattern in the peaks and valleys of unemployment among this group is worth further investigating, since the jobs they would normally hold seem likely to be long term. The numbers themselves are important, however, because while the total number of women unemployed may exceed the number of men unemployed, the percentage of those who fall in the category may be more revealing, since if an equal percentage of men and women are employed, there are guaranteed to be more unemployed women in an absolute sense, as there are more women with doctoral degrees.

    1. radcliffec20

      This is definitely an important factor to bring up. It is important to realize, however, that if women were encouraged to occupy all ten fields of employment there would be less female employment. While women do outnumber men in 7/10 fields, like we mentioned in our post, the other 3/10 fields have higher demand and, typically, higher pay. Thus including more women in these fields would address the gender gap in unemployment as well as wages.

      Regardless, you bring up a great point that definitely does need to be considered when we draw conclusions about the difference in unemployment rates for men and women.

  13. moraifa19

    The disparity in minimum unemployment between men and women is unfortunate, and surprising given the level of skill and merit acquired through education. Numbers like these remind me that even when the merit is equal, there are structural prejudices in place that surpass even this level of academic achievement.

  14. longa20

    This is an interesting divide, as you never hear about unemployment differences in gender. Do you know if these same differences occur for other fields, such as earning law degrees? Also, are there any differences in the pay of male and female doctors that could effect jobs?

    1. radcliffec20

      I just did some research about the differences in law schools, and I found that law schools are increasingly comprised of more women than men. However, the A.B.A. does not require law students to identify their gender, so I was only able to find the overall number of students who graduated with (and were employed because of) law degrees.

      There are certainly differences in pay for male and female doctors at all levels. Typically women are encouraged to remain nurses rather than surgeons, and even those who do become surgeons earn lesser wages than their male co-workers of equivalent statuses. According to the Doximity report from the spring of 2017, neurosurgery is the highest-compensated specialty with an average annual salary of $620,000. Within this field, female neurosurgeons made, on average, $92,917 less per year due to a 15% pay gap.

      There's certainly more data to find that can help answer both of your questions, but I hope the preliminary research above serves as a good start.

  15. Chris Surran

    I found this post very interesting and was not aware how much women outnumber men in so many doctoral fields. I think if would be interesting to discover how much females out number men in these fields. Also, I find the unemployment rate of recent college graduates to be frighteningly high as we will soon be entering the job market.

  16. Jimmie Johnson III

    I believe the most tragic part about this post is that even though this problem of gendered unemployment is proven by empirical data, there is still no solution to fix the problem. Even with modern age thinking of equality and jobs explicitly stating that gender has no impact on who gets the job, the data proves otherwise.

    1. radcliffec20

      This is such a good point!! In your post you mention the institutional racism that bars African Americans from benefitting from the economy to the extent that white men (and women) do. I wonder if the argument could be made that some kind of institutional sexism disadvantages women in a similar fashion.

  17. wickhamj20

    These graphs are extremely interesting. What I noticed was the difference in trends regarding male and female unemployment. While the male unemployment appears to be in decline, the female unemployment rates appear to be more volatile. Why is this the case, I do not know, however it leads me to believe that this is a systematic problem that might be harder to change. Hopefully with the growing awareness of this inequality, the trend will eventually change to be more equal.

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