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Dr. Helen

Why is the participation rate of men in the workforce so low?

September 7th, 2012 - 9:29 am

Daily Mail: “The 69.9 per cent labor force participation rate for men is at lowest level ever recorded.”

This statistic that I saw on Drudge got me thinking about something I read in Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Murray started looking at male employment in two towns–Fishtown and Belmont– prior to the recession and had this to say on page 181 of his book:

To sum up: There is no evidence that men without jobs in the 2000s before the 2008 recession hit were trying hard to find work but failing. It was undoubtedly true of some, but not true of the average jobless man. The simpler explanation is that white males of the 2000s were less industrious than they had been twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago, and that the decay in industriousness occurred overwhelmingly in Fishtown.

Murray points out that prime-age men are much more than three times as likely to be out of the labor force if they are unmarried. He also found that these men were spending much more of their time on leisure activities.

So, as I ponder this data, I wonder if men are going Galt, staying home and collecting unemployment or no longer need jobs because they don’t get married as often? Or is it that they just can’t get a job because the industries they work in are no longer hiring? Could the Obama administration also be part of the problem, focusing only on women’s jobs and not on those of men? Or a combination of these. What do you think?

Also read: Behind the Unemployment Numbers: It’s Worse than You Can Imagine

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