American Consequences - January 2018


Married prime-age men with children account for over twice as much of the paid workforce as the NILF-force (44.9% vs. 20.2%), while never married men with no children are inversely represented (26.2% of job holders, 43.1% of NILFs). Living under the same roof with one or more child also seriously shifts the odds of being a worker: Currently, the population of employees is almost evenly divided between prime males with and without children at home, but only about a quarter of the NILFs are in households with a child at home (26.3% vs. 73.7%). With respect to race and ethnicity, the greatest cleavage is between black men and the rest. Differences among the huge and diverse non-black grouping, to be sure, are also evident: Hispanic men are rather more likely to be in a job, and out of the NILF pool, than the national average for prime-age males, while the reverse is true of men who self-identify as Native American.

According to U.S. race data, black men make up nearly twice as much of the prime-age NILFs as of prime-age job-holders (20.4% vs. 10.6%). Finally, foreign-born men are more likely to be job-holders and decidedly less likely to be NILFs than the prime male population as a whole. Foreign-born men nowadays make up more than a fifth of prime-age job-holders in America, but less than a sixth of the un- workers (22.7% vs. 15.5%). By contrast native-born men make up about 78% of the total population of civilian non-institutional prime-age males but account for 84% of the NILFs. In sum: as of 2015, an American man 25-54 years of age is more likely to be an un-worker if: 1) He has no more than a high school diploma. 2) He is not married, has no children, or does not live with the children he has. 3) He is not an immigrant. 4) He is African-American. Interestingly enough, America’s changing racial and ethnic composition does not appear to have had much overall effect on long-term trends in work rates and inactivity rates. This may sound surprising, considering that the U.S. is a decidedly less “Anglo” nation than a couple of generations ago – but relative strong workforce performance by Hispanics and Asians has essentially offset the much weaker performance for African-Americans.

For the genial indifference with which the rest of society has greeted the ever-greater absence of adult men from the productive economy is in itself powerful testimony that these men have become essentially dispensable.

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