Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gender Gap Is Questioned

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gender Gap Is Questioned

Article excerpt

After stressing the importance of the "women's vote" for more than a decade, the National Women's Political Caucus now says the so-called gender gap is overrated.

Though women have tilted heavily toward Democrats in recent years while men have tilted Republican, the "gender gap is in danger of being blown out of proportion," said Jody Newman, the caucus' executive director.

That's a significant shift. For years, the caucus has argued that the voting differences between men and women deserved top-priority attention from both parties.

Why the shift? Perhaps the caucus is trying to move the Clinton White House and re-election campaign away from issues targeted too boldly to women, such as social services and affirmative action, and toward the more presumably manly issues of supply-side economics and deficit reduction.

If so, Democrats should move with caution. The gender gap is alive and well, largely because of the changing work roles of men and women and the way each group views its future.

The caucus presented data showing that the partisan gap between men and women is smaller than the Republican-vs.-Democrat divide between marrieds and unmarrieds, rural and urban, Protestant and Jew, rich and poor and white and black.

For example, the Democratic-Republican gap between men and women in 1994 was 11.1 percentage points, compared to 49.7 points between black and white voters.

Well, to say the male-female gap is smaller than the black-white gap is to show a keen grasp of the obvious. The more important question is, why is there a gender gap at all?

For years, there was no gender gap at all. Women voted almost identically to men until the post-1950s era of rapidly increasing divorce, two-worker-headed households and single-working-mother-headed households came along.

Women today are more likely than before to work outside the home, in service-oriented jobs and with union memberships. Men are working in fewer high-paying, low-skilled, repetitive-work jobs. Most of those jobs have disappeared, due to automation, overseas labor or corporate downsizing. …

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