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Men Without Work by Nicholas Eberstadt
business cycle, Carmen Reinhart, centre right, deindustrialization, financial innovation, full employment, illegal immigration, jobless men, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Kenneth Rogoff, labor-force participation, low skilled workers, mass immigration, moral hazard, post-work, Ronald Reagan, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working-age population
ISBN13: 978-1-59947-469-4 eISBN: 978-1-59947-470-0 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data on file. Printed in the United States of America 16 17 18 19 20 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 For Christopher C. Demuth Sr. Mentor, Colleague, Friend Contents Acknowledgments Introduction PART 1: Men Without Work 1:The Collapse of Work in the Second Gilded Age 2:Hiding in Plain Sight: An Army of Jobless Men, Lost in an Overlooked Depression 3:Postwar America’s Great Male Flight from Work 4:America’s Great Male Flight from Work in Historical and International Perspective 5:Who Is He? A Statistical Portrait of the Un-Working American Man 6:Idle Hands: Time Use, Social Participation, and the Male Flight from Work 7:Long-Term Structural Forces and the Decline of Work for American Men 8:Dependence, Disability, and Living Standards for Un-Working Men 9:Criminality and the Decline of Work for American Men 10:What Is to Be Done?
Introduction OVER THE PAST two generations, America has suffered a quiet catastrophe. That catastrophe is the collapse of work—for men. In the half century between 1965 and 2015, work rates for the American male spiraled relentlessly downward, and an ominous migration commenced: a “flight from work,” in which ever-growing numbers of working-age men exited the labor force altogether. America is now home to an immense army of jobless men no longer even looking for work—more than seven million alone between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-five, the traditional prime of working life. The collapse of work for America’s men is arguably a crisis for our nation—but it is a largely invisible crisis. It is almost never discussed in the public square. Somehow, we as a nation have managed to ignore this problem for decades, even as it has steadily worsened.
Would not a long-term fall in work rates exactly be expected in a prosperous and graying nation? Alas, adjustments for changes in the postwar population structure do not come close to “correcting away” the collapse in male work rates. Even after appropriate corrections, work rates for U.S. men have still undergone a stunning decline. I shall detail the particulars of this sad saga in the following pages. CHAPTER 2 Hiding in Plain Sight: An Army of Jobless Men, Lost in an Overlooked Depression MUCH CURRENT ANALYSIS of labor market conditions paints a cautiously optimistic—even unabashedly positive—picture of job trends. But easily accessible data demonstrate that we are, in reality, living through an extended period of extraordinary, Great Depression-scale underutilization of male manpower, and this severe “work deficit” for men has gradually worsened over time.
When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson
affirmative action, business cycle, citizen journalism, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, declining real wages, deindustrialization, deliberate practice, desegregation, Donald Trump, edge city, ending welfare as we know it, fixed income, full employment, George Gilder, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, informal economy, jobless men, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, low-wage service sector, manufacturing employment, mass immigration, new economy, New Urbanism, pink-collar, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, school choice, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Chicago School, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban renewal, War on Poverty, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration
Data from the UPFLS survey show that variables measuring differences in social context (neighborhoods, social networks, and households) accounted for substantially more of the gap in the employment rates of black and Mexican men than did variables measuring individual attitudes. Also, data from the survey reveal that jobless black men have a lower “reservation wage” than the jobless men in the other ethnic groups. They were willing to work for less than $6.00 per hour, whereas Mexican and Puerto Rican jobless men expected $6.20 and $7.20, respectively, as a condition for working; white men, on the other hand, expected over $9.00 per hour. This would appear to cast some doubt on the characterization of black inner-city men as wanting “something for nothing,” of holding out for high pay. But surveys are not the best way to get at underlying attitudes and values.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
affirmative action, Cass Sunstein, crack epidemic, Credit Default Swap, deindustrialization, desegregation, dumpster diving, ending welfare as we know it, fixed income, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, housing crisis, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, jobless men, Kickstarter, late fees, mass incarceration, New Urbanism, payday loans, price discrimination, profit motive, rent control, statistical model, superstar cities, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, thinkpad, upwardly mobile, working poor, young professional
“They ain’t gonna pay, man,” he said. “They gotta pay!” “Man, they can get some hypes to do it for way less than that.” Lamar’s labor was cheap, but he knew there were better deals to be had. When the plumbing broke, the roof leaked, or rooms needed painting, savvy inner-city landlords did not phone plumbers, roofers, or painters. They relied on two desperate and on-hand labor pools: tenants themselves and jobless men. New landlords would speak of “knowing a good plumber.” Experienced landlords would say they “had a guy.” Lamar knew that Sherrena “had people” and doubted that she would let him stay. He did the painting anyway, having no better option. Buck frowned and stared at the snow. “Nah, pops,” he said, disbelieving. “Hypes!” Lamar shouted. “Hypes done messed up everything. It’s hard to even sell a bus pass at the right price….I had to argue with her to get that job for two sixty.
Ned might have been homeless and on the run, but he was still compensated, as W. E. B. DuBois would have it, by a “psychological wage” that involved disparaging black people. See Black Reconstruction in America (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1969 ), 700. 11. The weight of the shame, sociologists have long thought, explained why many relationships fell apart in poor black neighborhoods. Especially for jobless men, the indignity of facing your family empty-handed built up to the point where abandonment became the lesser disgrace. To stay in a committed relationship was “to live with your failure, to be confronted by it day in and day out….In self-defense, the husband retreated to the streetcorner.” Most single mothers had no street-corner reprieve. Elliot Liebow, Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), 135–36.
The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes
anti-communist, bank run, banking crisis, Charles Lindbergh, collective bargaining, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Frederick Winslow Taylor, invisible hand, jobless men, Mahatma Gandhi, plutocrats, Plutocrats, short selling, Upton Sinclair, wage slave, Works Progress Administration
At the time unemployment data were not collected as they are today, but later analysis suggests that unemployment went from something like 3 percent in the fall of 1929 to 9 percent by the new year. One of the state officers who did the best job was Frances Perkins, the industrial commissioner in New York. Perkins announced early in the year that joblessness in her state was “very serious”—worse than in fifteen years. Hoover’s labor department blithely told the country that things would normalize, but as Time would note in February 1930, “Communists stirred hungry, cold, jobless men and women to demonstrations which required no statistician to interpret.” Of the problems confronting the economy, the tariff threat seemed most urgent, and easiest to stop. There were disputes, but some said it was the heaviest tariff in American history. Yet Hoover egged the lawmakers on to complete the legislation. In May 1930, one thousand and twenty-eight economists signed an open letter urging the president to veto the tariff legislation—and published the letter in the New York Times.
The sense of futility was stronger than it had been in the early 1930s. Roosevelt’s talk had had an aspect of self-fulfilling prophecy: because the first New Deal had not succeeded, many in the country believed that the United States was actually becoming the society of social classes that Roosevelt now described in his speeches. And they responded accordingly. Whereas in the old America of the 1920s the sight of so many jobless men had provoked shock and alarm, now people accepted it, telling themselves that at least things were better than before. The same held for stock traders, who had stopped measuring success against the marker of 1929. People told themselves that the fact that the stock average was moving upward was the best they could hope for, even though it remained so far from the 1929 high. Recovery was supplanting prosperity as the goal.
Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
barriers to entry, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Brownian motion, centre right, clean water, conceptual framework, crony capitalism, declining real wages, deindustrialization, Deng Xiaoping, edge city, European colonialism, failed state, Gini coefficient, Hernando de Soto, housing crisis, illegal immigration, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, jitney, jobless men, Kibera, labor-force participation, land reform, land tenure, liberation theology, low-wage service sector, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, megacity, microcredit, Nelson Mandela, New Urbanism, Pearl River Delta, Ponzi scheme, RAND corporation, rent control, structural adjustment programs, surplus humans, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, working poor
Officially there was little rise in unemployment, but this was statistical sleight of hand, because laid-off state workers were put into a special "off post" category that didn't count them as jobless since they still received some social security benefits through their work unit. In reality, urban unemployment is estimated to be between 8 percent and 13 percent. An unusually high percentage of redundant workers are women because, according to journalist Pamela Yatsko, the bureau chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review, "the government estimated that laid-off women would be less of a security threat than jobless men." Former female industrial workers — welders, lathe operators, and shipbuilders — are now forced to hunt for low-paying service-sector jobs as maids, waitresses, nannies, or street vendors.65 Yet Mao's ex-heroes of history retain, for the most part, the privileges of official urban status and usually some security of tenure. The "peasant flood," however, enjoys official social rights only in the impoverished villages from which they have fled.
Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl Wudunn
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, basic income, Bernie Sanders, carried interest, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, David Brooks, Donald Trump, dumpster diving, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, epigenetics, full employment, Home mortgage interest deduction, housing crisis, impulse control, income inequality, Jeff Bezos, job automation, jobless men, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, low skilled workers, mandatory minimum, Martin Wolf, mass incarceration, Mikhail Gorbachev, offshore financial centre, randomized controlled trial, rent control, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Shai Danziger, single-payer health, Steven Pinker, The Spirit Level, universal basic income, upwardly mobile, Vanguard fund, War on Poverty, working poor
The sociologist Michèle Lamont wrote in her book The Dignity of Working Men that working-class white men often define their value in terms of their disciplined lives going to work to support their families, thus taking pride in themselves. This was true of Tom Green. Because identity and self-esteem are closely tied to work, a poorly paying job may still be better for well-being than no job. In surveys, self-reported happiness drops ten times as much from a loss of a job as from a major loss of income. Long-term jobless men are three times as likely to be treated for depression as other men. Lack of employment is also associated with physical and mental-health problems, divorce, opioid use and suicide. The crucial gap on these metrics isn’t between rich workers and poor workers, but between poor people who have a job and poor folks who don’t. Kevin may not seem like a sympathetic figure—an obese ex-felon deadbeat who pulled a gun on his ex-girlfriend.
Armed Humanitarians by Nathan Hodge
Andrei Shleifer, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, clean water, colonial rule, European colonialism, failed state, friendly fire, IFF: identification friend or foe, jobless men, Khyber Pass, kremlinology, land reform, Mikhail Gorbachev, old-boy network, Potemkin village, private military company, profit motive, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, walking around money
Lieutenant Katrina Lewison, a young West Point graduate from western Kansas and now a Black Hawk pilot, was one of the soldiers who unexpectedly found herself on a quasi-humanitarian mission. On paper, she was a platoon leader with the Sixth Battalion of the 101st Aviation; in practice, she was a construction boss, supervising a team of sixty Iraqi day laborers. Lewison’s career in the construction business began on Mosul’s unemployment line. Each day, hundreds of jobless men from Mosul would line up outside the front gate of the airfield where the helicopter unit was based. A minor local sheikh named Doctor Mohammed had presented himself to the division on the day it arrived in Mosul, sending out a handwritten note, in stilted English, that was hand-carried to the airfield by an elderly man. Major Fred Wellman, the battalion executive officer, went to meet Doctor Mohammed.
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam
assortative mating, business cycle, correlation does not imply causation, deindustrialization, demographic transition, desegregation, ending welfare as we know it, epigenetics, full employment, George Akerlof, helicopter parent, impulse control, income inequality, index card, jobless men, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Occupy movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, school choice, selection bias, Socratic dialogue, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the built environment, upwardly mobile, Walter Mischel, white flight, working poor
Eighty years (and several cultural revolutions) later, it’s still true that hard times deter and destroy marriages.50 On the other hand, in the 1930s the birth rate also fell sharply, and between 1920 and 1940 unwed births remained consistently low.51 In that era, men and women postponed procreation as well as matrimony. “No marriage license, no kids” was the cultural norm. Unlike today, desperately poor, jobless men in the 1930s did not have kids outside of marriage whom they then largely ignored. Today the role of father has become more voluntary, which means that, as Marcia Carlson and Paula England have put it, “only the most committed and financially stable men choose to embrace it.”52 This important cultural shift matters a good deal for the sorts of families within which poor kids today are raised.53 Could changes in public policy or political ideology have had the perverse effect of undermining the conventional two-parent family?
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz
"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, Andrei Shleifer, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Basel III, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, business cycle, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, colonial rule, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dava Sobel, declining real wages, deskilling, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Flash crash, framing effect, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, inflation targeting, information asymmetry, invisible hand, jobless men, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, lone genius, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, mass incarceration, medical bankruptcy, microcredit, moral hazard, mortgage tax deduction, negative equity, obamacare, offshore financial centre, paper trading, Pareto efficiency, patent troll, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, trade liberalization, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, very high income, We are the 99%, wealth creators, women in the workforce, zero-sum game
In the Jim Crow South at the end of the nineteenth century, white politicians devised poll taxes that were designed to disenfranchise the former slaves and their descendants, who wouldn’t have the wherewithal to pay.28 Those taxes, combined with literacy tests and sometimes violence and terror, succeeded both in substantially lowering electoral turnouts and in increasing the Democratic vote share.29 In Ecuador, before 1979, only the literate could vote, and the ruling elite made sure that the indigenous people didn’t have sufficient education to qualify. In each case elites feared they would lose their position of power and privilege, and even their wealth, if they extended the voting franchise. Many of the efforts at disenfranchisement, now and in the past, have been directed at disenfranchising the poor; in the 1930s, pauper exclusion laws disenfranchised jobless men and women who were receiving relief.30 The political science scholar Walter Dean Burnham has detailed the long history of what he calls efforts at voter “demobilization” targeted at various groups: against urban workers, by upstate agrarians and small towners; against leftist parties, by the major parties; against populists, by the urban corporate elites; against the poor, by the middle- and upper-income groups.31 Many of these measures may be thought of as disenfranchisement by stealth.
The Origins of the Urban Crisis by Sugrue, Thomas J.
affirmative action, business climate, collective bargaining, correlation coefficient, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, deindustrialization, desegregation, Detroit bankruptcy, Ford paid five dollars a day, George Gilder, ghettoisation, Gunnar Myrdal, hiring and firing, housing crisis, income inequality, indoor plumbing, informal economy, invisible hand, job automation, jobless men, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, low-wage service sector, manufacturing employment, mass incarceration, New Urbanism, oil shock, pink-collar, postindustrial economy, rent control, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Chicago School, union organizing, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, War on Poverty, white flight, working-age population, Works Progress Administration
Throughout the day contractors and construction workers drove past the clusters of workers hanging out on the Eight Mile Road sidewalks and chose one or two to join them on the job site.79 The sight of a casual labor market would have been familiar to anyone from the South, but was frowned upon by middle-class black residents of the area and by disapproving suburban whites who drove by. Local residents complained that traffic along Eight Mile backed up for blocks as employers checked out and selected day laborers. On slow days, jobless men loitered on the streets, leading one black community group to complain of “women, young and old being molested on the sidewalks, the usage of vile language,” and “gambling and drinking.” Despite community complaints, the police only sporadically arrested men for loitering, and courts were usually sympathetic to the claim that the men were looking for work. Police interference in the market would deprive Detroit employers of a ready supply of cheap labor.
Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood With Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson
Alistair Cooke, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Charles Lindbergh, colonial rule, European colonialism, financial independence, full employment, imperial preference, indoor plumbing, jobless men, old-boy network, South China Sea
Not infrequently, Winant would use his own money to pay a medical bill, cover an educational expense, or help start a business for an impoverished state resident or fellow World War I veteran who had asked for his help. During the Depression, he instructed the Concord police to allow transients to spend the night in the city jail, then feed them in the morning and send the bill to him. Walking to work, he would hand out all the money in his wallet to jobless men sunning themselves against the granite walls of the state capitol. Winant, said one friend, “carried the Christian injunction, ‘Give all thy goods to feed the poor,’ further than any person I have ever known.” When he left office in January 1935, Winant’s ideals and principles had won the endorsement of most of the state’s legislators, regardless of party. Some three decades later, Robert Bingham, Winant’s legislative counsel in Concord, would remark: “Whenever people want to measure the effectiveness of a governorship, they compare it with Winant’s three terms.”
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
active measures, affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, American ideology, anti-communist, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernie Sanders, British Empire, clean water, colonial rule, death of newspapers, desegregation, equal pay for equal work, feminist movement, friendly fire, full employment, God and Mammon, Howard Zinn, illegal immigration, jobless men, land reform, Mercator projection, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, offshore financial centre, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Silicon Valley, strikebreaker, Telecommunications Act of 1996, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, very high income, War on Poverty, Works Progress Administration
Shouting that they must have food for themselves and their families, the invaders announced their intention to take it from the stores unless it were provided from some other source without cost. Detroit, July 9, 1931. An incipient riot by 500 unemployed men turned out of the city lodging house for lack of funds was quelled by police reserves in Cadillac Square tonight. . . . Indiana Harbor, Indiana, August 5, 1931. Fifteen hundred jobless men stormed the plant of the Fruit Growers Express Company here, demanding that they be given jobs to keep from starving. The company’s answer was to call the city police, who routed the jobless with menacing clubs. Boston, November 10, 1931. Twenty persons were treated for injuries, three were hurt so seriously that they may die, and dozens of others were nursing wounds from flying bottles, lead pipe, and stones after clashes between striking longshoremen and Negro strikebreakers along the Charlestown-East Boston waterfront.