Less-educated men facing declining labour prospects in US: Study

While the fraction of men counted as unemployed, not currently working but looking for work, has declined over the last decade, the fraction out of the workforce altogether has trended up.
While the fraction of men counted as unemployed, not currently working but looking for work, has declined over the last decade, the fraction out of the workforce altogether has trended up. PHOTO: AFP

CHICAGO (XINHUA) - When it comes to finding their place in the labour market, men without a college education in the United States face a complex array of forces, including declining wages and fewer stable jobs, according to a study posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM) on Tuesday (March 5).

Statistics show that all but 2.8 per cent of men in the prime working ages of 25-54 were participating in the labour force in 1960.

But by 2015, nearly 12 per cent of men were non-participants. That's a withdrawal of roughly 5.5 million men from the labour force, and the majority of such men lack a college education.

While the fraction of men counted as unemployed, not currently working but looking for work, has declined over the last decade, the fraction out of the workforce altogether has trended up. The trend can be seen in the statistics for native-born men across racial and ethnic groups.

UM researchers gave an explanation that goes beyond simple supply and demand stories. One focuses on the roles played by the difficulty of maintaining a rewarding job in declining areas and the reluctance of individuals to migrate to more economically prosperous areas.

Another explanation emphasises a "feedback loop" between declining job prospects and declining marriage prospects. While most men in the 1960s entered marital arrangements founded on the husband working and the wife tending to the household, family structure is quite different today.

The fraction of non-college-educated men currently married has plummeted by 30 to 40 percentage points since the 1960s.

 

Meanwhile, women have become more economically self-sufficient. These labour and marriage market forces interact with one another, creating an environment in which men without a college education may no longer find the maintenance of a stable job as attractive as they once did.

These factors have all converged to reduce stable employment, leading affected men to participate sporadically in the labour market and depend mostly on family members for income support, the researchers stated.

The study is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.