Sex Roles

, Volume 70, Issue 3–4, pp 88–97 | Cite as

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

  • Kenneth S. MichniewiczEmail author
  • Joseph A. Vandello
  • Jennifer K. Bosson
Original Article


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.


Masculinity Employment Gender status Mental health 


Author Note

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


  1. Bernard, J. (1981). The good-provider role: its rise and fall. American Psychologist, 36, 1–12. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.36.1.1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bosson, J. K., Prewitt-Freilino, J. L., & Taylor, J. N. (2005). Role rigidity: a problem of identity misclassification? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 552–565. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.4.552.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bosson, J. K., Vandello, J. A., Burnaford, R. M., Weaver, J. R., & Wasti, S. A. (2009). Precarious manhood and displays of physical aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 623–634. doi: 10.1177/0146167208331161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boushey, H. (2009). Interactive graphic: Women still primary breadwinners. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
  5. Brescoll, V., Uhlmann, E. L., Moss-Racusin, C., & Sarnell, L. (2012). Masculinity, status, and subordination: Why working for a gender stereotype violator causes men to lose status. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 354–357. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.06.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brewster, K. L., & Padavic, I. (2000). Change in gender-ideology, 1977–1996: the contributions of intracohort change and population turnover. Journal of Marriage and The Family, 62, 477–487. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00477.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2000). Changes in women’s labor force participation in the 20th century. Retrieved from
  8. Buss, D. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1–49. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X00023992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. U.S. Census Bureau (2012). Historical income tables: People. Retrieved from
  10. Collins, P. H. (2004). Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deaux, K., Winton, W., Crowley, M., & Lewis, L. L. (1985). Level of categorization and content of gender stereotypes. Social Cognition, 3, 145–167. doi: 10.1521/soco.1985.3.2.145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eagly, A. H., & Steffen, V. J. (1984). Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 735–754. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.46.4.735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (1999). The origins of sex differences in human behavior: evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408–423. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.54.6.408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Edwards, G. H. (1992). The structure and content of the male gender role stereotype: an exploration of subtypes. Sex Roles, 27, 533–551. doi: 10.1007/BF00290008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Epley, N., & Dunning, D. (2006). The mixed blessings of self-knowledge in behavioral prediction: enhanced discrimination but exacerbated bias. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 641–655. doi: 10.1177/0146167205284007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilmore, D. D. (1990). Manhood in the making: Cultural concepts of masculinity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: an egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 211–222. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.211.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glick, P., Gangl, C., Gibb, S., Klumpner, S., & Weinberg, E. (2007). Defensive reactions to masculinity threat: more negative affect toward effeminate (but not masculine) gay men. Sex Roles, 57, 55–59. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9195-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goodman, P. S. (2010, April 25). From the mall to the docks, signs of rebound. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  20. Gromet, D. M., & Pronin, E. (2009). What were you worried about? Actors’ concerns about revealing fears and insecurities relative to observers’ reactions. Self and Identity, 8, 342–364. doi: 10.1080/15298860802299392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hines, D., Saris, R. N., & Throckmorton-Belzer, L. (2002). Pluralistic ignorance and health risk behaviors: Do college students misperceive social approval for risky behaviors on campus and in the media? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 2621–2640. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb02760.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Juhn, C., & Potter, S. (2006). Changes in labor force participation in the United States. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 27–46. doi: 10.1257/jep.20.3.27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kierski, W., & Blazina, C. (2009). The male fear of femininity and its effects on counseling and psychotherapy. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 17, 155–172. doi: 10.3149/jms.1702.155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Knowledge Networks (2012). KnowledgePanel® Demographic Profile. Retrieved from
  25. Laing, R. D., Phillipson, H. H., & Lee, A. R. (1966). Interpersonal perception: A theory and a method of research. Oxford England: Springer.Google Scholar
  26. Levant, R. F., & Kopecky, G. (1995). Masculinity reconstructed: Changing the rules of manhood- at work, in relationships and in family life. New York, NY: Dutton.Google Scholar
  27. Maudlin, J. (2010). Okay, fine, things are getting better—but not much. Business Insider. Retrieved from
  28. Miller, D. T., & Prentice, D. (1994). Collective errors and errors about the collective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 541–550. doi: 10.1177/0146167294205011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Rudman L. A. (2010). When men break the gender rules: status incongruity and backlash against modest men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 11(2), 140–151.Google Scholar
  30. National Bureau of Economic Research (2010, September 20). Business Cycle Dating Committee, National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from
  31. National Center for Education Statistics (2010). The Condition of Education 2010. Retrieved from
  32. Norton, J. (1997). Deconstructing the fear of femininity. Feminism & Psychology, 7, 441–447. doi: 10.1177/0959353597073028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Olivardia, R., Pope, H. G., Borowiecki, J. J., & Cohane, G. H. (2004). Biceps and body image: the relationship between muscularity and self-esteem, depression, and eating disorder symptoms. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 5, 112–120. doi: 10.1037/1524-9220.5.2.112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peter, K., & Horn, L. (2005). Gender differencesin participationand completionof undergraduate education and how they have changed over time. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from
  35. Pleck, J. H. (1981). The myth of masculinity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Pope, H. G., Gruber, A. J., Mangweth, B., Bureau, B., deCol, C., Jouvent, R., & Hudson, J. I. (2000). Body image perception among men in three countries. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 1297–1301. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.8.1297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L. M., & Malle, B. F. (1994). Social dominance orientation: a personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741–763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What men and women should be, shouldn’t be, are allowed to be, and don’t have to be: the contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 269–281. doi: 10.1111/1471-6402.t01-1-0006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Prentice, D. A., & Miller, D. T. (1993). Pluralistic ignorance and alcohol use on campus: some consequences of misperceiving the social norm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 243–256. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.64.2.243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ross, M., & Sicoly, F. (1979). Egocentric biases in availability and attribution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 322–336. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.37.3.322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Roth, J. E., & Coleman, C. L. (2008). Perceived and real barriers for men entering nursing: implications for gender diversity. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 15, 148–152.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2001). Prescriptive gender stereotypes and backlash toward agentic women. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 743–762. doi: 10.1111/0022-4537.00239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rudman, L. A., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Nauts, S. (2012). Status incongruity and backlash effects: defending the gender hierarchy motivates prejudice against female leaders. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 165–179. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.10.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Savitsky, K., Epley, N., & Gilovich, T. (2001). Do others judge us as harshly as we think? Overestimating the impact of our failures, shortcomings, and mishaps. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 44–56. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sidanius, J., Levin, S., Liu, J., & Pratto, F. (2000). Social dominance orientation, anti-egalitarianism and the political psychology of gender: an extension and cross-cultural replication. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, 41–67. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(200001/02)30:1<41::AID-EJSP976>3.0.CO;2-O.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sprecher, S., Sullivan, Q., & Hatfield, E. (1994). Mate selection preferences: gender differences examined in a national sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1074–1080. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.66.6.1074.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Taylor, P., Fry, R., Cohn, D., Wang, W., Velasco, G., & Dockterman, D. (2010). Women, men, and the new economics of marriage. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  48. Vandello, J. A., & Bosson, J. K. (2013). Hard won and easily lost: a review and synthesis of theory and research on precarious manhood. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14, 101–113. doi: 10.1037/a0029826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vandello, J. A., Bosson, J. K., Cohen, D., Burnaford, R. M., & Weaver, J. R. (2008). Precariousmanhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1325–1339. doi: 10.1037/a0012453.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vandello, J. A., Ransom, S., Hettinger, V., & Askew, K. (2009). Men’s misperceptions about the acceptability and attractiveness of aggression. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1209–1219. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Verick, S., & Islam, I. (2010). The great recession of 2008-2009: Causes, consequences and policy responses. Discussion Paper No. 4934, May 2010. Retrieved from
  52. Weaver, J. R., Vandello, J. A., Bosson, J. K., & Burnaford, R. M. (2010). The proof is in the punch: gender differences in perceptions of action and aggression as components of manhood. Sex Roles, 62, 241–251. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9713-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Weaver, J. R., Vandello, J. A., & Bosson, J. K. (2012). Intrepid, imprudent, or impetuous?: the effects of gender threats on men’s financial decisions. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14, 184–191. doi: 10.1037/a0027087.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Williams, J. E., & Best, D. L. (1990). Measuring sex stereotypes: A multination study. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 345–411. doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00355.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth S. Michniewicz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Joseph A. Vandello
    • 1
  • Jennifer K. Bosson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations