Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More Men Not Married; More Men Not Working

The New York Times has a fascinating story on the rising percentage of men in their prime working years (30 – 54) who are not working. Nationally, about 14% of men that age are not working; my state of Kentucky is the second worst at 20.9%, beaten, if that is the right word, only by West Virginia, where a quarter of the men aren't employed.

When we compare the marital status of the working and not working men, what we find will be no surprise to readers of this blog. Of the working men, 70% are married; of the non-working men, only 41% are. The divorced comparisons are particularly scary: 17% of the working men, compared to a whopping 37% of the non-workers – nearly as many as the married.

Wives are more likely to push men to work; husbands are more likely to want to work to support their wives. The Times article tells us nothing about whether they have children or not, but men normally have responsibility for children when they have wives.

The article suggests that it is welfare, especially disability payments, which make this rising rate of non-working possible. I think, though, that welfare is not likely to be a major cause, though it might be an important support force in prolonging unemployment. The major cure for male indolence is marriage and fatherhood. As the latter declines, the former rises.


Anonymous said...

I have had some interesting conversations lately on a some-what related topic. I work in the horse industry and have recently found myself out of work due to the availability of immigrant labor at a lower, illegal, price. Living on the margin between undergrad and law school, I am led to question my previous perceptions of the "immigrant situation."
I had believed immigrants were performing unskilled labor that Americans, the wealthy lazes we are, no longer wished to stoop to perform. While I still respect the immigrants and their hard work for low pay, I now wonder how many other of those living on the margin have been put out of business by the influx of cheap labor and how this plays into the discouraged citizen/worker/husband scenario.

Gruntled said...

The men in the article, any way, are turning down the jobs that the immigrants take. One large set of unemployed men are felons, who often do work, but illegally.

Ruth said...

A point that is very interesting about disability payments and choices made around that - I'm not necessarily talking short term disability payments but long term programs- is who chooses to work and not work. For example, because I play wheelchair sports as a quadriplegic, I come in contact with a lot of young people with spinal cord injuries. What I've noticed is that the severity of the injury has no correlation to the choice to work. For example, a lot of quadriplegics work whereas some paraplegics choose not to. Paraplegics sometimes joke : well what else can a quadriplegic do besides work? Most of these folks are males btw. It's interesting to see that the men's choice to work, even in the able bodied population, is changing.

Gruntled said...

Are men in wheelchairs more likely to work if they are married.

halifax said...

This brings to mind a quote by Dr. Johnson. "Bachelors have consciences, married men have wives." I have always found that my wife actually worked better.

Gruntled said...

Married male Presbyterian sociologists have wives, a Protestant work ethic, and a family man ideology.