Nicholas Eberstadt (“A Nation of Takers”) presented his little book “Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis” at a Cato Institute forum on January 10, 2017 (writeup ) . I can gest and suggest the phrase “men without chests” from a National Review article by David Skinner in June 1999. The book is part of a “New Threats to Freedom” series initiated in 2010 by Templeton Press.
Seriously, the book documents the gradual drop on LFPR (Labor Force Participation Rate) and “Not in Labor Force” (NILF) rate among working age men 25-54 and sometimes up to age 64, over various time periods since WWII, especially since 2000. “Not in Labor Force” refers to men not only not with paid employment but also not looking for work. The charts are based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, often from special Census surveys run all the time (I have actually worked for Census on these surveys).
NILF has increased steadily in the past two decades, and not changed particularly changed (in derivative “rate of change”) during sharp recessions. Some of the factors that reduce labor force participation include education level high school or lower, criminal backgrounds, non-white, non-immigrant, single, and childless.
Men with families to support do have higher labor force participation, which seems logical. Immigrant men tend to be more desperate to work even when illegal to do so, and to want to send money home, and to move around to get work. As men become better educated, marital status and having children becomes less important. Women with kids will normally do their best to work if single because they have to.
The book notes that many NILF men indeed seem to live as mooches, spending their time as “watchers” on social media, as if that were their job. (That confounds the “No spectators” rule of the movie “Rebirth”!) The author notes that the men don’t even help take care of children (too “emasculating” biologically, as we now know) or elderly relatives. But “observing” is still a form of “economic inactivity”.
The causes of this development are many. Obviously, men with criminal records are hard to employ given the punitive culture of US justice. Globalization and automation have removed jobs for intellectually less talented men. Our culture has become more individualistic and less social, a development that men (and women) with good cognitive (and/or good people) skills benefit from (sometimes with spectacular results), but which demoralizes men who “don’t get it” and need a more consistent family and communal tribal culture.
The book contains criticisms (“Dissenting Points of View”, that is, opposing viewpoints) by Henry Olsen and Jared Bernstein. The criticisms note Donald Trump’s campaign based on the loss of many manufacturing jobs for men to offshoring. Olsen mentions military conscription as raising employment for men from 1948 to 1972, but, in a rebuttal, the author notes that many men were rejected by the draft and these men tended to be harder to employ.
My last high-paying job was eliminated at the end of 2001, when I was 58, and I held interim jobs (list) until 2011, but for various times I lived on savings, investments, and inheritance. I have not added to economic activity (which would help others find work) as much as maybe I should be expected to. There was a culture in earlier times that people could retire at 55, which is way too early given today’s population demographics. Corporate pension social security offsets were set up to assume retirement at 62, which is unhealthful.
One problem was that the jobs being pushed at me mostly involved superficially conceived commissioned sales gigs and hucksterism. I could have, for example, sold sub-prime mortgages. We need to create jobs that add real wealth, not just build ponzi-like pyramids.
|Title, Subtitle:||“Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis“|
|Publication:||Templeton Press, Philadelphia; 206 pages, many charts, endnotes|
(Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 11:30 PM EST)