Gender Influences on Middle Class Jobs

Nursing home worker

As a recent college graduate, I feel the pain of many of learners in higher education. Finding employment after finishing school–whether it be with a certificate from a career college or a degree from a 4-year institution–is a daunting task. Besides reflecting on how one wants to spend 40+ hours per week for the foreseeable future, there’s the added issue of the job market itself. Will I be able to find a job? Are there openings in my field? Is the market growing or shrinking, and will I have stability?

The New York Times (NYT) recently posted a fascinating infographic, “The Changing Nature of Middle-Class Jobs,” that provides some answers to many of these questions. The post visualizes how middle class jobs changed from 1980-2012, as a measure of jobs per 1,000. The occupations are broken into 10 categories, and they highlight the top 20 increases and decreases by relative share of the middle-class workforce.

The graphic also captures the gender breakdown of each field over time—and this is perhaps what struck me the most. While some fields have become more or less dominated by a single gender, there remains gender disparity in many of the fields:

  • Of the 99 fields included in the graphic, 52 of them are held by 60% or more men, and 30 are 60% or more women.
  • Only 17 are relatively neutral, with between 40-60% of either gender.
  • The growth of women in the workforce since 1980 is also readily apparent, as 24 of the 30 (80%) occupations that were female-dominated in 2012 saw positive growth after 1980, compared to 18 out of 52 (35%) of male-dominated occupations that saw growth.

 Middle class jobs chart

The NYT infographic sheds light on some notable changes in many of these fields; for example:

  • Nursing was the top growing field—from 19 jobs per thousand in 1980 to 39 in 2012
  • Other areas of healthcare saw big gains as well: healthcare assistants jumped 7 points (from 4 to 11), and health technologists and technicians jumped 13 points (from 8 to 21).
  • Teacher jobs went in multiple directions: while high school teachers fell from 17 to 12 jobs per 1000, elementary school teachers (up +9) and other teachers/counselor (up +12) both rose.
  • Jobs in construction trades have seen a general decrease, the third largest of the entire pool—down 15 points, from 38 to 24 per thousand jobs. Split out from this are electricians, which only slightly decreased, and welders, who declined -6 to 5 jobs per thousand. (However, see this article that discusses the growing demand for welders projected for the next decade).
  • Police and food preparation/service occupations are also on the rise since 1980, both up +4 jobs per thousand.

There are many other facts that can be gleaned from this graphic, but one thing is clear: middle class America is changing, and the open question is how the next generations of workers will continue to alter and shape the occupational landscape.