Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It

Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It



The Pequod Review:

Richard Reeves's 2022 book Of Boys and Men makes a persuasive case that men and boys are facing increasing challenges in many areas of modern life:

The gender gap in college degrees awarded is wider today than it was in the early 1970s, but in the opposite direction. The wages of most men are lower today than they were in 1979, while women’s wages have risen across the board. One in five fathers are not living with their children. Men account for two out of three ‘deaths of despair,’ either from suicide or an overdose... The boys and men I am most worried about are the ones lower down the economic and social ladder. Most men are not part of the elite, and even fewer boys are destined to take their place. In 1979, the weekly earnings of the typical American man who completed his education with a high school diploma, was, in today’s dollars, $1,017. Today it is 14% lower, at $881.

Reeves marshals a lot of strong evidence — on everything from grade point averages to intergenerational mobility to labor force participation rates — to show that some very troubling trends are taking place. These trends are exacerbated by the increasing feminization of our culture, which does not always respect the fact that men are falling behind and contributes to a general form of demoralization and apathy among males. Reeves's book also attempts to determine some of the deeper causes, although here his work becomes uncertain and muddled as he struggles to pin down any particular set of causes — and therefore his proposed solutions (delayed kindergarten starts for boys, increased vocational training options, and stronger father-child bonds) wind up being quite weak. Still, this is a useful book on what is surely an important trend in modern Western culture.