Harmful Masculinity Costs the United States More Than $15 Billion a Year, Reveals New Study

New research calculates the social impact and economic cost of harmful masculine behaviors.

  • Internalizing harmful masculinity puts young men in what Promundo and others call the “Man Box,” and it has serious consequences for all of us. 
  • Young men “in the Man Box” are up to six times more likely to have sexually harassed; up to seven times more likely to have used physical violence; and twice as likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks.
  • If we got rid of the Man Box, we could reduce sexual violence by at least 69% and eliminate at least 41% of traffic accidents, 40% of bullying and violence, 39% of suicides, 7% of binge drinking, and 4% of depressive symptoms among men (18-30) in the US, every year. 
  • Promundo calculated that the minimum cost that could be saved annually by the US economy if there were no “Man Box” is $15.7 billion.

“Man up.” “Be a man.” “Don’t cry.” What happens when young men internalize these messages? Believing in restrictive, harmful ideas about what it means to “be a man” puts young men in what Promundo and others call the “Man Box,” and it has serious consequences for all of us. According to Promundo’s national US data, young men “in the Man Box” are up to six times more likely to have sexually harassed; up to seven times more likely to have used physical violence; and twice as likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks. Being “in the Man Box” is also linked with binge drinking, depression, and traffic accidents.

The findings are so strong and so alarming for individuals that Promundo analyzed how the Man Box impacts society at large. According to the research, if we got rid of the Man Box, we could reduce sexual violence by at least 69%. We could also eliminate at least 41% of traffic accidents, 40% of bullying and violence, 39% of suicides, 7% of binge drinking, and 4% of depressive symptoms among men (18-30), every year. 

If we stopped telling boys and men – and if boys and men rejected the notion – that “being a man” means using violence to resolve conflicts, resisting the help of others, and sticking to rigid gender roles, we could dramatically reduce many of the most damaging behaviors and consequences our society faces. 

This would also save the US economy a lot of money. Promundo calculated that the minimum cost that could be saved annually by the US economy if there were no “Man Box” is $15.7 billion. This cost is calculated from available public health data on men (ages 18-30), and includes estimates such as the average cost of property damage and bodily injury resulting from automobile accidents, lost productivity due to premature death from various causes, loss of quality of life due to the consequences of violence, among other factors. For comparison, this amount – $15.7 billion – could pay for the college tuition, fees, and room and board for over 415,000 students at US public institutions per year; it’s nearly twice the annual revenue of the NBA.

The costs accrue to individuals, to businesses, and to society as a whole. Promundo’s calculations relate to a toll incurred by those who survive and are harmed by men’s use of violence, those who survive and are harmed by traffic accidents, the family members and dependents of those who die by suicide, the employers whose staff miss time or underperform due to drug use or depression, and ultimately young men themselves when their lives and possibilities are cut short or curtailed.

A deeper look at the six key outcomes included within this $15.7 billion figure finds the annual costs as follows: traffic accidents ($7.3 billion), suicide ($4.4 billion), depression ($2.4 billion), sexual violence ($631 million), bullying and violence ($772 million), and binge drinking ($181 million). The study also reveals that the Man Box costs the UK $3.8 billion and Mexico $1.4 billion. Taken together, that’s nearly $21 billion, a sum larger than the GDP of over 70 countries.

This research was conducted by Promundo, a global leader in engaging men and boys as partners with women and girls to promote gender equality and prevent violence. AXE supported this research as part of an ongoing collaboration with Promundo to determine the impact of harmful masculinity in the US, UK, and Mexico – and to encourage society to join us in promoting a progressive view of masculinity.

Read The Cost of the Man Box: A study on the economic impacts of harmful masculine stereotypes in the US, UK, and Mexico summary report here.

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