Nothing new here. I stopped working years ago and took up book-writing, which is not gainful employment in anyone’s judgement. My guess is that men in America are all turning from the assembly lines and blast furnaces to poetry, choreography and modern art.
[T]he male employment ratio reached its peak in the early 1950s-and then commenced an almost relentless descent. Today’s level is the lowest thus far-but this decline of work for men has been unfolding for decades, indeed generations. Over the past 60 years, the employment ratio for adult men has plummeted by about 20 percentage points. Which is to say: if America’s male employment ratios were back at their Eisenhower-era levels, well over 20 million more men would be at work today. At the moment, roughly 76 million men are counted as working.
How is this collapse of work to be explained? In purely arithmetic terms, the great bulk of the change is due to an exodus out of the labor force-that is to say, to a massive long-term rise in the number of adult men who are neither working nor seeking work. Over the past 60 years, the labor force participation rate for adult men has fallen by about 16 percentage points. In 1953, about 14 percent of adult men were out of the labor force-around one in seven. Today 30 percent are neither working nor seeking work-nearly one in three.
Of course population aging has something to do with this gradual but cumulatively immense male flight out of the workforce. But we should not exaggerate this effect. In the early 1950s, senior citizens 65 and older accounted for almost 12 percent of adult men, as against 16 percent today. Aging on this scale cannot explain most of the 16 percentage point shift out of the workforce that has been registered by adult men over these decades. Indeed, it cannot even explain all that much of it.
The plain fact is that men in what are generally regarded as conventional working ages have been increasingly opting out of the workforce altogether.