loss of economic independence (and ability to provide for others), and the loss of meaning and fulfillment that work demonstrably brings to so many (though admittedly not all) people who engage in it. The great male flight from work may thus have increased the burden of misery in an incalculable but nonetheless immediate manner. We should not be surprised by any such effect – rather, the surprise would be if a social emasculation on this scale increased the happiness of those concerned. It is imperative for the future health of our nation that we make a determined and sustained commitment to bringing these detached men back: into the workplace, into their families, and into civil society. I do not propose to offer here a comprehensive program to accomplish this great goal. This is not a “how to” manual. America’s “men without work” problem is immense and complex, and has been gathering for fully two generations. Redressing it will surely require action on many different fronts – and most certainly not just governmental action.
Tackling it will also require suggestions and strategies from varied voices representing the whole political spectrum and maintaining the necessary consensus for turning the tide. I would propose for a start that we focus public attention in three general directions: 1) Revitalizing American business and its job- generating capacities. 2) Reducing the immense and perverse disincentives against male work embedded in our social-welfare programs. 3) A subject that needs a dissertation of its own and which there is not space enough here to address – a coming to terms with the enormous challenge of bringing convicts and felons back into our economy. These convicts and felons are overwhelmingly male and majority non-white. A single variable – having a criminal record – is a key missing piece in explaining why labor force participation rates have collapsed much more dramatically in America than in other affluent Western societies.
Nicholas Eberstadt, who earned his AB, MPA, and PhD at Harvard
American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles, and values that sustain and nurture it. The above is excerpted and condensed from his book Men Without Work published by Templeton Press.
University, is America’s leading expert on demographics and its role in economic development. He holds the HenryWendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute and in 2012 was awarded the Bradley Prize for innovative thinking devoted to strengthening
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