Dewayne Matthews, vice president of strategy at the Lumina Foundation, a private organization working to expand access to post-secondary education, told Weissman that since the 1980s, the number of young men who pursue higher education has increased only slightly. Since 1991, women with college degrees have outnumbered men: in 2014, it was 34 percent to 26 percent in favor of women. Matthews chalks it up to structural shifts in the economy, away from a market that relied on a workforce with only a high school diploma. "You could get those jobs in a lot of sectors," Matthews said, citing manufacturing, natural resources and forestry jobs. "These were jobs that were held mostly by men—paid very good wages—and didn’t require post-secondary education."
"Now the job market has drastically shifted and demands a workforce with at least some specialized skill," Weissman notes. "Demand for entry-level positions in dying industries like mining and factory work is waning, while sectors like computer science and engineering are continually ramping up." Yet still many young men opt out of college. "You’re talking about generations of families in communities that were built around a certain type of work," Matthews said. Wiessman adds, "Changing the culture of what young men do—or imagine they can do—for a living takes time. So is it any wonder that so many men from working-class backgrounds are heartened by Trump's promises that he will bring back coal jobs?" (U.S. Census Bureau chart.)