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Why It's So Hard to Get a Man to be a Nurse

January 9th, 2017
male female nursesHealthcare has added more jobs in the last several years than any other sector of the economy, yet some of the highest paying specialties -- nurses, physical therapists, health aides -- have failed to attract men.

Men may have tripled their proportion of registered nurses since 1970, but they still only account for about 9.6%. And yet, male nurses on average earned $60,700 in 2011 when the U.S. Census Bureau did a study. Home health aides, a job which rarely requires more than a high school degree, is 89% female.

As traditional male-dominated jobs in manufacturing, mining, and other areas continue to diminish, why don't men make the move into healthcare and other growth sectors?

That's the very question The New York Times set out to answer in an article headlined "Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women." As The Times pointed out, "Women have always entered male-dominated fields — usually well-paid, professional ones — more than men enter female-dominated ones."

Why that is is a complex mix of masculine pride, educational ambition and training, and what one economist calls “retrospective wait unemployment,” or “looking for the job you used to have.”

“It’s not a skill mismatch, but an identity mismatch,” Harvard economist Lawrence Katz told The Times. “It’s not that they couldn’t become a health worker, it’s that people have backward views of what their identity is.”

What's the solution? It's not a simple one, the article makes clear. Some jobs will have to simply pay more to attract men, others will need to make the case that the jobs they offer are manly, a case already being made by some hospitals. For other jobs, it will be a matter of time.

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