Fo­cus­ing on men with­out jobs

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSI­NESS - By Christo­pher S. Rugaber AP Eco­nom­ics Writer

WASH­ING­TON >> The U.S. un­em­ploy­ment rate has sunk to a gen­er­ally healthy level since the Great Re­ces­sion ended in 2009. Yet the other side of the coin — the pro­por­tion of adults who have jobs, what some economists call the “work rate” — re­mains 3 per­cent­age points be­low what it was be­fore the re­ces­sion be­gan.

That trans­lates into mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who are nei­ther work­ing nor look­ing for work, a trend that has slowed the econ­omy. The prob­lem is par­tic­u­larly acute for men, for whom the drop has been nearly 4 points.

Ni­cholas Eber­stadt, a political econ­o­mist at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, as­sesses the prob­lem in a new book, “Men With­out Work.”

Q: Tell us about what you call a “quiet calamity” re-

gard­ing men in the work­force.

A: If we take a look at the work rate, there’s been a col­lapse for men over a two-gen­er­a­tion pe­riod. The rate is sev­eral per­cent­age points lower than the cor­re­spond­ing work rates for men in 1940, at the tail end of the De­pres­sion.

It’s not un­re­al­is­tic to de­scribe the col­lapse of work

for men in the post-war era as ap­proach­ing de­pres­sion­scale lev­els. And I also show that if we were able to reat­tain 1965 level work rates for men, cor­rect­ing for pop­u­la­tion ag­ing, we’d have al­most 10 mil­lion more men with paid jobs in our so­ci­ety to­day. Just think of what an ab­so­lutely ex­tra­or­di­nary dif­fer­ence that would mean.

Q: What does this mean for our econ­omy?

A: The con­se­quences: Slower eco­nomic growth, wider eco­nomic

and wealth di­vides, greater de­pen­dence on gov­ern­ment, larger gov­ern­ment deficits, more public debt, more frag­ile fam­i­lies, less so­cial mo­bil­ity, weaker civil so­ci­eties and ar­guably more political ex­trem­ism in the United States. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing good that comes out of it.

Our un­em­ploy­ment rate is be­com­ing a less and less mean­ing­ful mea­sure of la­bor force health, es­pe­cially for men, be­cause of the rise of those out of the la­bor force al­to­gether, nei­ther work­ing nor look­ing

for work.

There are over three guys ages 25 through 54 who are nei­ther work­ing nor look­ing for work for ev­ery one guy who is un­em­ployed and look­ing for a job.

Q: What has caused this?

A: I put less weight on the eco­nomic struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion as­pect than oth­ers do. You can take a look at the de­cline in man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, which has been very dra­matic in Amer­ica in the last two gen­er­a­tions.

But we’re not the only coun­try that has had a de­cline in man­u­fac­tur­ing. Ev­ery rich coun­try has had that. Yet we have had by far the worst drop in male work­force par­tic­i­pa­tion.

I see this huge blind spot in look­ing at the prob­lem, which has to do with the rise in crime and the rise in sen­tenc­ing. We have over one in eight adult guys with a felony in his past. And we don’t have any gov­ern­ment data on the in­come or em­ploy­ment pro­files on men who have had trou­ble with the law.


Ni­cholas Eber­stadt, a political econ­o­mist at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, has writ­ten a new book en­ti­tled “Men With­out Work.”

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