Why the Gender Makeup of the Nursing Profession Is Changing

A new study examines the gender makeup of the nursing profession from 1960 to the present day. The study, published by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and authored by economists Abigail Wozniak of the University of Notre Dame and Elizabeth Munnich of the University of Louisville, notes that in 1960, men were just 2.2 percent of all registered nurses. By 2013, men made up 13 percent of all registered nurses.

Dr. Wozniak

Dr. Wozniak stated that “it’s very unusual to see more men move into occupations that are primarily done by women. Our main goal was to try to understand the reasons for this change.”

The biggest factors contributing to more men entering the nursing profession are, according to Dr. Wozniak, “educational preparation in the form of high school completion and community college access, rising demand for healthcare workers, and the relaxing of traditional gender role attitudes.”

The authors also found that both men and women are increasingly likely to enter the profession in their 30s. The speculation is that nursing may not have been the first career choice but the high demand for nurses causes men and women to take a second look at nursing if they have not found success in other fields.

Dr. Munnich

Dr. Wozniak is an associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Co-author Elizabeth Munnich is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Louisville. She is a graduate of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Notre Dame.

The study, “What Explains the Rising Share of U.S. Men in Registered Nursing?” may be downloaded by clicking here.

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