Men Are Disappearing From The Workforce

Men have been disappearing from the workforce for more than half a centuryBy Tami Luhby

Men have been steadily disappearing from the workforce for more than half a century.

In the 1950s, nearly every man in his prime working years was in the labor force, a category that includes both those who are employed and those actively applying for jobs. The "participation rate" for men ages 25 to 54 stood at 97.7% in early 1956, but drifted downward to a post-war record low of 88.4% at the end of 2012. (It ticked up very slightly at the start of this year to 88.6%.)

So where have all the men workers gone? Some went into prison. Others are on disability. And still others can't find jobs and have simply given up looking.

The trend is particularly pronounced among the less educated. As the job market shifted away from blue-collar positions that required only a high-school degree to more skilled labor, many men were left behind, labor analysts say. It's harder these days to find well-paying jobs in manufacturing, production and other fields traditionally dominated by men without college diplomas.

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But college men are leaving, too. The participation rate of those older than 25 and holding at least bachelor's degree fell to 80.2% in May, down from 87.2% in May 1992.

"The proportion of guys doing nothing has risen," said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The cycles of national economic prosperity since World War II have done little to stem this downward slide. In fact, even when the unemployment rate hit a 30-year low in the early 2000s, the share of men in the workforce continued its steady decline.

The Great Recession accelerated the trend, pushing the participation rate for men in their prime working years below 90% for the first time. It has yet to recover, even as the general economy improves.

Here's a closer look at the reasons why men are dropping out of the labor force.

Incarceration: A growing number of men have spent time in prison, which makes it much harder to find a job once they complete their sentences.

Looking at those born just after World War II, some 1.2% of white men and 9% of black men had been to prison by 2004, according to Bruce Western, a Harvard sociology professor. But looking at those born 30 years later, some 3.3% of white men and 20.7% of black men had been to prison.

Disability: More men have been pouring into the federal disability system, especially in recent years, when the Great Recession and its aftermath pushed up the national unemployment rate. Men who might have found a job in a better labor market were instead turning to this safety net system, according to David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor and co-author of Wayward Sons, which looks at the growing gender gap in education and the workforce.

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In 1982, around 1.9% of working-age men were receiving disability benefits. By 2012, that number had climbed to 3.1%, according to data crunched by the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Once on the disability rolls, few people get off. Only 2.2% left the program in the first quarter of 2013.

Lack of education: A few decades ago, men could graduate high school and make a decent living on a factory floor or at a construction job. As the labor market becomes more skilled, those guys are being left behind.

In the 1960s, more men than women were enrolling in and completing college. "That's completely reversed itself," Burtless said. "Women's persistence and enrollment rates have given them a real edge over men."

Women born in 1975 were roughly 17% more likely than their male counterparts to attend college and nearly 23% more likely to complete a four-year degree, according to data in Wayward Sons.

"A lot of non-college men have chosen not to work rather than participate in jobs that don't pay that well and are not very satisfying," Autor said.

The decline of men in the labor force has broad implications for families, taxpayers and the economy. Fewer employed men means more people on the dole and fewer taxpayers to contribute to the nation's economic growth.

Also, fewer of these men are in stable family relationships, contributing to growth of single-parent households. That fuels the widening income inequality gap and stunts the upward economic mobility of the next generation.


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bpante

Americans are disappearing from the workforce. ILLEGALS are taking all the jobs. The only thing left is Walmart who won't hire ILLEGALS.

June 23 2013 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
unique212

The reasons given in the article apply to EVERYONE in the workforce, not just men. The workforce participation rate is at a 50-year low in ALL categories -- men, women, minorities, whites, able-bodied, disabled.... Scary indeed.

June 23 2013 at 2:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to unique212's comment
bpante

How many Millions of those jobs have been taken by ILLEGALS.

June 23 2013 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
shalebrook

With minorities, the federal government that replaced the tradtional nuclear father by providing subsidies and entitlement programs-formerly the job of "Nuclear Family Dad". As a result, there is no parental guidance or incentive to complete even a high school education and beyond as there is in middle class and upper middle class familes where the nuclear family is still largely intact, motivating and teaching its children.

Most sociologists with agree that the nuclear family provides the mores and values-one of which is education as a bootstrapping device-but with big government now providing the financial safety net Nuclear Dad-himself likely lacking a HS degree-is free to run from his responsibilities as a father and push the buden of fathering the family over to the federal Government.

The net result, is a 25% high school graduation rate at inner city high schools such as the Cleveland City school system where I reside as well as a 25% truancy rate.

The outcome of well meaning social engineering in the form of welfare, food stamps, and other support programs-much of which took place as part of Lyndon Baines Johnson's "Great Society" of the mid to late 'sixties-is that they are now a multigenerational addiction that robs people of the desire or need to earn a living and move up the economic ladder. Hence a 14% unemployment rate among blacks.

Welfare related programs have spiraled during the Obama administration. But they have not helped create jobs and/or force the black community back into the work force. . At the end of the Bush jr. tenure black unemployment stood at 10%. despite unemployment now at lower levels overall than it was at that point in time, black unemployment has risen to 14%.

In Cleveland where I live, blacks were trucked in to the 2012 election and voted by more than 99% to 1% for Obama-even though their employment circumstances had declined. Why? Obama used the scare tactic of reduction or outright loss of entitlements to scare them into voting Democrat.

Another unintended adverse consequence is in the national murder rate. Blacks represent 13% of the national population, but 48% of all murders committed-per recent FBI reports on violent crimes commited by race. On a per capita basis the black cmmunit commits 6 times the murders that the other racial categories commit. Hypothetically, if the black per capita murder rate could be reduced to the level of the other racial categories we would have a whopping 40% reduction in the national muerder rate as well as murders by firearm.

Politically speaking, this is a "hot potato" for either party to handle. But to address black unemployment and black crime some way has to be found to induce blacks to graduate from high school and use whatever means possible to onbtain higher education. Over time a better educated, more fully employed black community should lead to reduced violence.

June 23 2013 at 1:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to shalebrook's comment
makaiisa

So, according to your summation and 'statistics', minorites are the only ones on welfare, have single parent homes, don't graduate from high school and commit crimes? Oh, and it's the President's fault, correct? Yeah, ok. Go smoke another one, bro...

June 23 2013 at 2:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to makaiisa's comment
jiminey99

Perhaps you should read his comments again. I don't think you understood them the first time around.

June 24 2013 at 12:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Sylvie

Many of the jobs that existed prior to 1970 have been exported abroad by the Federal government simply to control inflation. That is, of course, rising prices caused by a government that has always been run by the fat cats for the fat cats, a government spending far more money than it receives in taxes. To control inflation (politically unpopular) and rather than reduce or eliminate huge tax breaks to large corporations, the politicians simply let more cheaper foreign goods flood the nation, the end result of this is to have exported American jobs to other countries.

The answer to this is simple. Substantially reduce the huge tax breaks to corporations PLUS institute a more progressive long term capital gains tax structure that mandates progressively higher tax rates based on the size of the gain and the length that the capital asset was held.

June 23 2013 at 12:41 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
cimontesjr

Ah yes, if you're not gainfully employed and working for tha man....you're a slacker, a moocher, a taker! You must all work! Get on your knees you mere human/citizen/illegal, or whatever they call you! And if that little job doesn't pay you living wages....you can work 2 or 3 more of "em. You despicable human being not born into....

June 23 2013 at 11:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
nyhuguenot

Not all of us are lying around. Laid off from a job I had held for 16 years I started my own business. Finally after 30 years I retired and now work as a consultant. I built a deck on the house, am landscaping the backyard, etc. Both are things I had no time to do before. I'm doing it myself because every company I spoke to wouldn't tell me if they used illegal alien labor. they were within my talents but were harder work than I wanted to do and since I'm slower now would take a longer time. When I finsh the back I'm going to start on the front yard. Then it's inside to paint and get the house ready to sell in a few years so we can retire to another house we own. By the way, I am a high school dropout I joined the NAVY and was in the SEABEES where I learned the skills I have as well as improved my outlook toward work hard and efficiently. I don't understand why all these no skills layabouts don't do something with themselves to become more emplyable. I will say that I think part of this problem is that men no longer marry young and have families to support. Young women have made this possible by removing the physical imperative that convinced men to marry.

June 23 2013 at 9:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nyhuguenot's comment
mennis0852

Why would a man want to marry if he can get sex anytime he wants? Then we have women that do not want to get married and have children since that will affect their careers that they have worked so hard for.

June 23 2013 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lakearcher

Successful high school completion gets you a diploma, not a degree.

June 23 2013 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eyeforeye42

Funny that we blame the illegals when you can't find enough people to be migrant fruit and vegetable pickers. Migrants take the jobs the men discussed here would not take. Interesting people call them illegals (which they are) in this country but chide other countries like many in the middle east who have refugee problems (aka illegal immigrants) for not matriculating them in to legal citizens.

June 23 2013 at 5:38 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eyeforeye42's comment
Grapost

"Migrants take the jobs the men discussed here would not take."

FALSE! American won't take those jobs because they don't pay a LIVING WAGE! The illegals are paid below the minimum wage. No American can live on that.

I'm tired of this lie that keeps being repeated that illegals take jobs that Americans won't do. It's an insult to all Americans.

June 23 2013 at 10:10 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Wes

Many of the jobs in the United States have gone to illegals and the rest have moved to China. And you wonder why no one is working?

June 23 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
N68Firebird

Enter illegal aliens which take up construction and factory jobs, and professionals from other countries over here on work visas, and *POOF* problems for our male citizens.

June 22 2013 at 11:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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