The Overinflated Narrative Of Middle-Aged Men Fleeing The Labor Market
You see stats like the above all the time, about middle-aged and older men fleeing the labor force. Here’s a new version of that same story. While it’s definitely true that some men have fled the labor force, you get into that link and you see this:
About 87 percent of men ages 35 to 44 were working as of October, down from 88.3 percent before the pandemic struck in 2020.
That’s not a huge drop, so I don’t think we can go and blame COVID immediately or anything.
A bit further down, there’s this:
Men have been withdrawing from the labor force for decades. In the years following World War II, more than 97 percent of men in their prime working years — defined by economists as ages 25 to 54 — were working or actively looking for work, according to federal data. But starting in the 1960s, that share began to fall, mirroring the decline in domestic manufacturing jobs.
Now, that’s a bigger drop, but it’s still not massive.
The generic reasons that everyone gives for this drop are:
- We outsourced manufacturing jobs
- We imprisoned a bunch of working-aged men
- We had two drug crises (cocaine/crack and opioids)
- Video games got better
The more progressive reasons we get for the drop are commonly:
- Mr. Moms happen more
- Shifting family dynamics
- Shifting life priorities
Here’s a few things I’d add:
- Women are actually fleeing the workforce a lot more, especially since COVID, so let’s remember that.
- There is a “crisis” of sorts around middle-aged men and their professional trajectory and education and potential as compared to previous…