From The Wall Street Journal and Nicholas Eberstadt,The Idle Army: America’s Unworking Men
Who are America’s new cadre of prime-age male unworkers? They tend to be: 1) less educated; 2) never married; 3) native born; and 4) African-American. But those categories intersect in interesting ways. Black married men are more likely to be in the workforce than unmarried whites. Immigrants are more likely to be working or job-hunting than native-born Americans, regardless of ethnicity. High-school dropouts from abroad are as likely to be working or looking for work as native-born college grads.
Clearly big changes in the U.S. economy, including the decline of manufacturing and the Big Slowdown since the start of the century, have played a role. But something else is at work, too: the male flight from work has been practically linear over the past two generations, irrespective of economic conditions or recessions.
What we might call “sociological” factors are evident, not least the tremendous rise in unworking men who draw from government disability and means-tested benefit programs. There are also the barriers to work for America’s huge pool of male ex-prisoners and felons not behind bars—a poorly tracked cohort that accounts for one adult male in eight in the civilian population, excluding those in jail now.
Regardless of its cause, this new normal is inimical to America’s national interests. Declining labor-force participation and falling work rates have contributed to slower economic growth and widening gaps in income and wealth. Slower growth in turn reduces tax revenue and increases budgetary pressures, producing higher deficits and national debt. Unworking men have increased poverty in the U.S., not least among the great many children whose fathers are without jobs.