On the U.S. Senate floor, while being televised on C-Span, Majority Leader, Harry Reid said "Men, when out of work, tend to become abusive."
Most unemployed men become abusive?! So, according to Reid, if we filled a room with a 100 unemployed men and 100 unemployed women, many men and far fewer women would be abusive.
What's his evidence? He had none but post hoc, his staff dug up a 2004 Dept. of Justice study that found merely that men who are unemployed are more likely to argue with their wives than men who are unemployed. Duh. But the percentage difference is small, the percentage of men who abuse their wives is small, and there's no male vs female comparison. In short, the study provides absolutely no support for Reid's statement that most unemployed men tend to be abusive.
In fact, when domestic violence does occur, a metaanalysis of 250 studies of domestic violence by California State University professor Martin Fiebert finds that women "are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 365,000."
Instead of lambasting men, half the population, Majority Leader Reid would more wisely focus on identifying initiatives that would create good, stable jobs for men and for women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among men in January 2010 is 10.8% versus women's 8.4%, That is the largest gap since BLS started collecting the data, as David Brooks reported last week in the New York Times. 80 percent of jobs lost in the current recession have been to men. Indeed, the recession could be called a He-Cession. Yet 40% of the jobs expected to be created by federal job stimulus programs are targeted at women.
Other recent articles, for example, the March 2010 cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America, and one in the New York Times, The New Poor: Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs, suggest that ever more people, disproportionately men, are likely to find themselves un- or underemployed.
Especially because unemployment is likely to remain high, if we are to reduce domestic violence, spouses must be more supportive. That's not easy--it's scary for a spouse to lose their spouse's income. So perhaps this is a time to encourage couples to work on their communication, perhaps abetted by counselors and workshop leaders. That and thoughtful private- and perhaps public-sector job-creation initiatives are far more likely to reduce domestic violence than unfairly blaming men.