Don't miss George Will's column this morning addressing the "quiet catastrophe" of the men who don't work. Will takes his text from Nicholas Eberstadt's new sobering book Men without Work: America's Invisible Crisis.
For 50 years, the number of men in that age cohort who are neither working nor looking for work has grown nearly four times faster than the number who are working or seeking work. And the pace of this has been “almost totally uninfluenced by the business cycle.” The “economically inactive” have eclipsed the unemployed, as government statistics measure them, as “the main category of men without jobs.” Those statistics were created before government policy and social attitudes made it possible to be economically inactive.
Largely because of government benefits and support by other family members, nonworking men ages 25 to 54 have household expenditures a third higher than the average of people in the bottom income quintile. Hence, Eberstadt says, they “appear to be better off than tens of millions of other Americans today, including the millions of single mothers who are either working or seeking work.”
The U.S. economy is not less robust, and its welfare provisions not more generous, than those of the 22 other affluent nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Yet the United States ranks 22nd, ahead of only Italy, in 25-to-54 male labor-force participation. Eberstadt calls this “unwelcome ‘American Exceptionalism.’ ”
. . .
Eberstadt, noting that the 1996 welfare reform “brought millions of single mothers off welfare and into the workforce,” suggests that policy innovations that alter incentives can reverse the “social emasculation” of millions of idle men. Perhaps. Reversing social regression is more difficult than causing it. One manifestation of regression, Donald Trump, is perhaps perverse evidence that some of his army of angry men are at least healthily unhappy about the loss of meaning, self-esteem and masculinity that is a consequence of chosen and protracted idleness.