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Men’s (Mis)Perceptions of the Gender Threatening Consequences of Unemployment

Abstract

Given the importance of work to the male gender role, the recent U.S. economic recession (in which men accounted for over 70 % of jobs lost; Boushey 2009) provided a window into the role of employment in men’s identities. We examined men’s and women’s beliefs about the effects of involuntary unemployment on others’ evaluations of them (i.e., metaperceptions). Specifically, participants evaluated targets (other people or themselves) on prescriptive and proscriptive traits linked to gender (see Rudman et al. 2012), and on gender status loss (e.g., whether one is “not a real man”). Using a nationally representative sample of participants from the United States (N = 816) with an equal number of men and women (Ns = 408), we found that, compared with women, men estimated lower appraisals of their own gender status by others after either an imagined or a recalled job loss. However, men’s gendered metaperceptions following job loss were more negative than the evaluations that others actually gave a hypothetical male victim of job loss. Thus, men may believe that others will evaluate them more negatively than others would actually evaluate them following job loss. We discuss these results in light of the current economy and shifting cultural norms regarding employment.

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Author Note

We thank Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) for generously funding this research.

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Correspondence to Kenneth S. Michniewicz.

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Michniewicz, K.S., Vandello, J.A. & Bosson, J.K. Men’s (Mis)Perceptions of the Gender Threatening Consequences of Unemployment. Sex Roles 70, 88–97 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-013-0339-3

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Keywords

  • Masculinity
  • Employment
  • Gender status
  • Mental health