Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Death of Work Is Dangerous Trend

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Death of Work Is Dangerous Trend

Article excerpt

A slow-moving crisis is often overlooked by both the general public and the news media.

So the fact that men have been dropping out of the work force in large numbers for the last two decades has been overlooked.

The Donald Trump campaign put a spotlight on the rage of the angry working class male, but a deeper story can be found in this book, "Men Without Work: America's Invisible Crisis" by Nicholas Eberstadt.

The collapse of work for men is a "quiet catastrophe," he writes.

"In the half-century between 1965 and 2015, work rates for the American male spiraled relentlessly downward, and an ominous migration commenced: a 'flight from work,' in which ever-growing numbers of working-age men exited the labor force altogether.

"America is now home to an immense army of jobless men no longer even looking for work - more than 7 million alone between the ages of 25 and 55."

Here are the shocking statistics:

- For every prime-age man who is out of a job and looking for one there are three others who are neither working nor looking for work.

- If we had the work rates of 1965, there would be 10 million more jobs for men 20 to 64 even after adjusting for population aging and educational expansion.

- In 2015, the work rate for American males from 25 to 54 was lower than it had been in 1940 at the tail end of the Great Depression.

So it's no exaggeration that American men are living through a Depression in work.

"We are, in reality, living through an extended period of extraordinary, Great Depression-scale under utilization of male manpower, and this severe 'work deficit' for men has gradually worsened over time," Eberstadt writes.

"One reason the phenomenon has escaped notice is that there have been no obvious outward signs of national distress attending the American male's massive and continuing postwar exodus from paid employment: no national strikes, no great riots, no angry social paroxysms."

The Trump election qualifies as the first dramatic warning sign.

Because many in the nation at large are doing well, people with college degrees in urban and media centers, this depression among the working class has been missed.

"And this is precisely the problem: for the genial indifference with which the rest of society has greeted the growing absence of adult men from the productive economy is in itself powerful testimony that these men have become essentially dispensable," Eberstadt writes.

Because work is so essential to the American drama, it also is a social and moral crisis.

If men can't function as breadwinners, this often results in their separation from the family. This has often dramatized among African-Americans - but it is also the case for a multitude of white American men, too.

The work slippage was happening before the recession but Eberstadt contends we have just emerged from a "lost decade. …

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