The Gender Degree Gap and The Great Mancession
The chart above shows the dramatic gender shift over time in college degrees (data here). In 1949, men earned 76% of all college degrees, i.e. men earned 317 degrees for every 100 degrees earned by women. By 1981, women earned 50% of all college degrees, and in almost year every since then have increased their share of all degrees to the current level of 58.61%, which is down slightly from the peak of 59.06% in 2007. The 60-year trend may now have stabilized at 59% of all college degrees earned by women and 41% earned by men, or 144 degrees earned by women for every 100 degrees earned by men.
The chart below shows the difference in the monthly male unemployment rate and female unemployment rate back to January 1948. For all months above the red zero line, the male jobless rate was higher than the female rate, and for all months below the red line, the female rate was higher than the male rate. For 249 consecutive months between December 1959 and August 1980, the female jobless rate was below the male jobless rate. In other words, for more than ten years, there was never a single month when the male jobless rate was higher than then female jobless rate, and that's quite a record.
During the last four recessions, the male unemployment rate has always exceeded the female jobless rate, but only by about 1% in the recessions of 1982, 1990-1991 and 2001, which is nothing compared to the historic 2.7% peak male-female jobless rate gap in August 2009 (11% for males vs. 8.3% for females).
For the 32-year period between 1948 and 1979, the average male-female jobless rate gap was -1.21% in favor of men (lower male unemployment rate compared to female unemployment), and for the 30-year period from 1980 to 2010, the average jobless rate has been 0.187% in favor of women (lower female unemployment rate compared to male).
Hypothesis: As college degrees have shifted gradually in favor of women over the last sixty years, and especially since 1981 as women got a disproportionately higher and higher share of all college degrees year-by-year, women have become both better-educated than men on average, and also better protected against unemployment, especially during recessions (see chart above of jobless rates by education). In other words, the Great Mancession of 2008-2009 was directly related to men's decreasing share of college degrees, and therefore greater exposure to unemployment, especially during the Great Recession.