men aren’t actually failing….

Hanna Rosin’s new book is out today, and I suppose I should read it to fact-check it, because it seems like no one else will. In the Times today, David Brooks gives a preview of what’s to come, asking “Why Men Fail.”

You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.

… Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent.

Actually in 1954, the 92.8 percent — not 96 percent — of men aged 25 to 54 had a job, according to BLS statistics. In August that percentage was at 82.2 percent. A lot of that has to do with, y’know, the recession. As recently as 2007, 87.5 percent of men had jobs. Others were in school, being a housedad or, yes, collecting disability. More on that in a sec.

Meanwhile, the percentage of women aged 25-54 working (outside the home) has also been dropping — from a high of 74.9 percent in fourth quarter 1999, to 69.1 percent in the first half of this year.

In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.

True, but as the Atlantic explained, this has more to do with an aging population than anything else.

Millions of men are collecting disability.

True, but so are millions of women — about 300,000 more women than men, in fact. According to the Social Security Administration, 3.28 million males and 3.58 million females were receiving SSI disability payments in December 2011. (pdf, page 22).

Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.

Brooks misrepresents Greenstone’s work here. Greenstone does indeed conclude that when you adjust for inflation, average earnings for median prime-age [25-64] males did drop 28 percent from 1969 to 2009 — but that’s because fewer men are working, and so aren’t earning any wage. When you look at men working full-time, the mean earnings of men aged 25-64 has risen 13 percent (but the median has dropped 1 percent, a sign of growing inequality. (pdf, page 13).

Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.

No and no. Brooks doesn’t give a source for his claim that women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s, but I’m willing to bet it came from a 2010 data analysis by Research Advisors…. but that little factoid came with a number of caveats, that Brooks doesn’t mention. It only looked at childless, never-married men and women who live in cities. Married men significantly outearn never-married men — no one really knows why, although theories abound — so by excluding them from the sample, you’re excluding some of the top earners.

I just took a look at the 2008-2010 American Community Survey. The average income for full-time male workers in their 20s was $30,849 … for women, $27,877.

Also, it’s not true that 12 of the 15 fastest-growing professions are “dominated” by women (and most of those jobs are not exactly highly desireable, like food service workers). Also, the 15 professions expected to grow the most are expected to generate just 6.3 million of the 20.5 million new jobs expected by 2020.

Brooks goes on to talk about how women are perhaps more “adaptable” than men — but men can be adaptable as well.

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