This week two more examples surfaced of how men are falling behind women, lending credence to the national narrative that men – particularly young men – are struggling to keep up.
More young men than young women in Connecticut drop out of high school, and the state’s gap is one of the highest in the nation, according to federal education statistics released this week.
And a new state initiative is trying to get men to pay attention to their health in light of the fact that women now live an average of six years longer than men, up from a one-year gap that existed a century ago.
Here are some other troubling statistics:
- More men than women are unemployed in Connecticut in almost every age and racial group. For example, state unemployment numbers for 2012 show that 16.3 percent of young men aged 20 to 24 were unemployed compared to 10.4 percent of women the same age.
- School-aged boys in Connecticut have much lower scores than girls on the writing portion of the state standardized test.
- Of the 16,347 prison inmates in Connecticut, 15,317 are men, or 94 percent.
- Nationwide, more young men than young women still live with their parents.
- Women are getting more education – from ages 18 to 24 there is a significant gap between the number of young women still in school and the number of young men.
In response to the growing gap in life expectancy between men and women, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo held a panel this week to promote a new initiative he’s calling “Man Up.”
“Man Up” is primarily about convincing men to pay more attention to their health by getting physicals and other preventative care like regular tests for prostate cancer and cholesterol screenings.
In an interview after a roundtable held this week, Lembo said one of the factors affecting men’s success in managing their health is the stereotype of a stupid man who doesn’t know how to take care of himself.
“Stop the joke that we’re knuckleheads,” he said. “That message has become embedded in the psyche – into the minds of young boys.”
Men need to stop seeing “illness as weakness, and injuries as something you power through,” he said.
Roundtable panelist Curtis Robinson, a businessman and philanthropist, had another answer why men are falling so far behind in their health.
He said one of the problems facing many young men in the state is that they don’t have a positive male role model.
According to 2010 census data, one in four children in the state live with a single mother, up from 19 percent in 2000. That number is even higher in the cities. Almost 60 percent of children in Hartford live with a single mother, up from 50 percent a decade ago.
“We’ve got to get the men back into their children’s lives,” said Robinson, who is a father of six and a grandfather of 12.
Young men need role models who are successful in careers like business, the law and medicine, he said, rather than in the sports and entertainment industries.
“They need more mentoring, more role models,” he said.
Suzanne Bates is a fellow at the Yankee Institute. She lives in South Windsor.