Men Not Working – What’s Going On?

About 7 million men ages 25 to 54 are not working. This trend predates the recent Great Recession; indeed, labor participation for this group has been falling for half of century. What is going on? Why are these men, in the prime of life, not working?

In June economists advising the White House issued a report, The Long-Term Decline In Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation, that examines this question and discusses possible public policy responses.

The report states that the fall in labor participation is concentrated among men with a high school degree or less. For this group of men, the United States has one of the lowest labor participation rates of all advanced industrial countries. The report discusses why some men choose not to work as well as how labor demand, and in particular low wages for lower skilled workers, depresses labor participation.

A recent Brookings Institution video discusses this issue in an interview with Jason Furman, chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.