By one reading, things look pretty good for Americans today: the country is richer than ever before and the unemployment rate is down by half since the Great Recession—lower today, in fact, than for most of the postwar era.
But a closer look shows that something is going seriously wrong. This is the collapse of work—most especially among America’s men. Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, shows that while “unemployment” has gone down, America’s work rate is also lower today than a generation ago—and that the work rate for US men has been spiraling downward for half a century. Astonishingly, the work rate for American males aged twenty-five to fifty-four—or “men of prime working age”—was actually slightly lower in 2015 than it had been in 1940: before the War, and at the tail end of the Great Depression.
Today, nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all—and nearly one in eight is out of the labor force entirely, neither working nor even looking for work. This new normal of “men without work,” argues Eberstadt, is “America’s invisible crisis.”
So who are these men? How did they get there? What are they doing with their time? And what are the implications of this exit from work for American society?
Nicholas Eberstadt lays out the issue and Jared Bernstein from the left and Henry Olsen from the right offer their responses to this national crisis.
“Nicholas Eberstadt has become one of our highest-impact socioeconomic and demographic analysts, rivaling his American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray. In Men without Work, he alerts us to a new ‘invisible national crisis.’”
“Too many Americans today are unemployed or lack the skills to thrive in our modern economy. Many of these individuals rely on welfare or disability payments instead of earned income. Nicholas Eberstadt’s Men Without Work reveals the depth of this problem, and warns that the pattern of prime-age males fleeing work can no longer safely be ignored.”
The Ellsworth American (Opinion Section)–December 21, 2016
“If you’re trying to understand why so many Americans voted for Trump, three books will help you out: Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis by Nicholas Eberstadt and Coming Apart by Charles Murray.”
“Nicholas Eberstadt of the center-right American Enterprise Institute released a book, Men Without Work, earlier this year has helped spark many man-centric conversations about labor force participation. Eberstadt argues that if you ignore differences in retirement age, American men are now less likely to work than European men, and that male labor force participation has been declining for a few generations now. This is all true.”
“The work rate for adult men has plunged 13 percentage points in a half-century. This ‘work deficit’ of ‘Great Depression–scale underutilization’ of male potential workers is the subject of Nicholas Eberstadt’s new monograph Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis, which explores the economic and moral causes and consequences of this.”
“Eberstadt is right that this is ‘America’s invisible crisis’: an enormous problem that is rarely discussed and will not go away on its own. Eberstadt has done more than anyone else to raise awareness of the issue and to sketch its contours.”
“‘America now is home to a vast army of jobless men who are no longer even looking for work—roughly 7 million of them age 25 to 54, the traditional prime working life,’ Mr. Eberstadt writes… . These members of the ‘Idle Army” are the “detached men’ of America, Eberstadt says. And their detachment, and their numbers, are growing. No nation can survive such a pandemic.”
“Eberstadt’s Men Without Work is the social-science ballast to the powerful impressionistic account offered in J. D. Vance’s bestselling Hillbilly Elegy, the book of the year.
“Eberstadt puts statistical meat on Vance’s rhetorical bones. His subject isn’t the unemployed but the not-employed, not men looking for work but men who have stopped looking for work. Those looking for work are counted as part of the labor force.
“The crisis of the un-working, so crushingly depicted in Eberstadt’s remorseless charts and facts, is a spiritual disease that has been slowly building within the American body politic and is beginning to rot us from within.”