May 7, 2024

The Disaster of Men Not Working

Fortunately, the solution to this social, economic, and political problem is a simple one.

American society has a problem, and it can be boiled down to what’s missing: millions of men aren’t in the workforce.

Two recent reports highlighted this reality. First was last Friday’s jobs report, which showed slowing job growth and yet an unchanged labor force participation rate of 62.7%. That rate is very close to the historical average rate (62.84%) going all the way back to 1948. There were just 8.5 million job openings in March, but that number isn’t finite. Jobs often create jobs.

Second was a Wall Street Journal report about job satisfaction, specifically this tidbit: “When asked how they feel overall about their jobs, most U.S. workers are positive, with 62.7% saying they are satisfied.” What are the odds that participation and satisfaction numbers would precisely match?

That match is not really the point, of course, though another data point in the Journal’s report is reason for intrigue: “Nearly 65% of men say they are happy with their jobs compared with 60% of women.”

God created people to work, and we’re happier when we do. Of course, after the Fall in the Garden of Eden, God cursed Adam in part by making work harder. That’s the fundamental reason for so many people being dissatisfied with their jobs. The good news is that capitalism gives us innumerable choices. Quitting and doing something else is often an option.

Nearly 14 million men are forgoing the workplace entirely, often without disability or other good reason.

“Using a broad definition of working age (16 to 64), the share of U.S.-born men in the labor force was 77.5 percent in April 2023, nearly the same as in 2019, pre-Covid,” reported the Center for Immigration Studies last August. “But this is significantly lower than the 83.1 percent in April 2000 and the 88.7 percent in 1960.” To put that in perspective, “If the same share of U.S.-born men (16 to 64) were in the labor force in 2023 as in 1960 there would be 9.5 million more U.S.-born men in the labor force.”

In February, the Bipartisan Policy Center came up with even starker figures for a slightly different age cohort over a slightly different period of time: “For men aged 25-54 in particular, BLS data shows that the participation rate has declined from a high of 98% in September 1954 to 89% in January 2024.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco provided further context last October, seeing a clear change between generations: “About 14% of millennial males at age 25 are not in the labor force, compared with 7% of baby boomer males when they were that age.” Fed researchers “attribute this gap at younger ages to millennials’ prolonged investments in formal education relative to earlier generations.” Yet men make up a smaller percentage of students at institutions of (ahem) higher learning than ever.

Somehow, this all seems connected to the measure of job satisfaction for both men and women. If more women are the “breadwinners,” they perhaps feel more stressed and less satisfied. If more men are layabouts or work with dissatisfied women, they, too, will feel less fulfilled.

That has huge implications for family, culture, economy, and politics.

Mike Rowe became famous for his “Dirty Jobs” show, which aimed to show the dignity of working even the most mundane and, well, dirty jobs. His mission is to convey that work has intrinsic value, perhaps particularly for men.

Back in 2018, he argued that our problem in America is simple: “We have identified work as the proximate cause of our dissatisfaction.” He added, “As a society, we’ve made the case that the enemy of your happiness is your damn job.”

The truth is just the opposite. Without work, “your soul slips out of you,” he says. “You become disengaged, you become emasculated … you become resentful.”

The Apostle Paul had sterner words for men who wouldn’t work, writing, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

In America, of course, much of what the federal government does is to provide a “safety net” that helps people avoid work and punishes those who do work.

The great news is that the solution is simple, if also easier said than done.

Dear American men, get a job, get married, and raise a family. Doing so would yield fewer abortions, fewer angry feminists who feel abandoned and oppressed, fewer fatherless kids “growing up” to protest on college campuses or commit crimes, and far fewer people voting Democrat because they’re dependent on government handouts.

It all starts with the most straightforward task, God-given at the moment of creation — work itself. It’s almost like humans were designed with that pattern in mind.

Follow Nate Jackson on X/Twitter.

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