As a rule, women are more pessimistic than men. The pattern has been among the most consistent across years of tracking U.S. consumer sentiment in the Reuters/University of Michigan survey. Since the survey began tracking gender differences in outlook in January 1978, women have shown a higher sentiment reading just twice.
Things changed this month.
The long-term trend continued in May as overall consumer sentiment dropped to a 28-year low. Yet the mood among women improved slightly whereas sentiment for men soured for a fourth consecutive month, dropping to the lowest since 1980 (second graphic above). Moods darkened for men by the biggest margin in nearly three years, since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
What’s behind it? One factor at play is a diverging view of personal financial situations. Women in the survey indicated their situations improved modestly this month from April, albeit from a 27-year low. For men, however, May marked the seventh straight month of worsening finances. In fact, men rated their finances in the worst shape since the survey began tracking the differences between the genders.