Men Without Work
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“A longtime fellow of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Eberstadt is a respected scholar and writes in a cautious and moderate tone. He often cites those who disagree with him, including a solid study by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that directly conflicts with his own analysis.”
“An unsettling portrait not just of male unemployment, but also of lives deeply alienated from civil society.”
“It is vital to reckon with the research of Nicholas Eberstadt, whose forthcoming book documents the travails of the 7 million prime-age men who have dropped out of the workforce.”
About the Authors
His many books and monographs include Poverty in China (IDI, 1979); The Tyranny of Numbers (AEI Press, 1995); The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999); The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008); Russia’s Peacetime Demographic Crisis (NBR, 2010); and A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic (Templeton Press, 2012). His latest book is Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis (Templeton Press, 2016).
He has offered invited testimony before Congress on numerous occasions and has served as consultant or adviser for a variety of units within the US government. His appearances on radio and television range from NPR to CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
Mr. Eberstadt has a Ph.D. in political economy and government, an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government, and an A.B. from Harvard University. In addition, he holds a Master of Science from the London School of Economics.
In 2012, Mr. Eberstadt was awarded the prestigious Bradley Prize.
Bernstein holds a PhD in Social Welfare from Columbia University and is the author and coauthor of numerous books for both popular and academic audiences, including his latest book, The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity. Bernstein has published extensively in various venues, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The American Prospect. In addition to hosting this blog and co-hosting the On The Economy podcast, he is an on-air commentator for the cable stations CNBC and MSNBC and contributor to The Washington Post’s PostEverything blog.
This work is the basis of his book titled The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism, published in June 2017.
Mr. Olsen has worked in senior executive positions at many center-right think tanks. He most recently served from 2006 to 2013 as Vice President and Director, National Research Initiative, at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously worked as Vice President of Programs at the Manhattan Institute and President of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Mr. Olsen’s work has been featured in many prominent publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Review, and The Weekly Standard. His pre-election predictions of the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections were particularly praised for their remarkable accuracy. In the 2016 campaign, he accurately identified the factors fueling the rise of Donald Trump early in the race, and his election eve predictions were more accurate than those of virtually any other major analyst or commentator.
Mr. Olsen started his career as a political consultant at the California firm of Hoffenblum-Mollrich. He then worked with the California State Assembly Republican Caucus before attending law school. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Danny J. Boggs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and as an associate at Dechert, Price & Rhoads. He has a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as Comment Editor for the University of Chicago Law Review.