The Decline of Male Labor Force Participation

I don’t think it has much to do with wages. Wages have stagnated, but they haven’t gone down. And keep in mind that the rising costs of education and healthcare aren’t going to be borne by uneducated young men. If they can live with their parents, they’ll have avoided the third major inflationary pressure in the form of housing costs. Their McWages will buy more food and durable goods than they used to. I think the unemployment rate is telling us the truth, there just aren’t that many people who want jobs but can’t find them. There’s more than zero, though.

I have three main explanations:

The first is simply that these men don’t need to work. Remember that before the 20th century in most cultures including the West, the wealthy of both genders saw no obligation to work. Today, we live in such material abundance that men can live comfortably without doing much work. When they turn 18, they simply don’t move out, parents, at the peak of their incomes, have little trouble supporting them, the house still has four bedrooms after all. This type of parasitism is a socially disapproved behavior, so it’s unsurprising it’s mainly indulged in by men. This why I disagree with Maggie Gallagher’s theory that it’s caused in part by a decline of masculinity. If men got significantly more “masculine” tomorrow, I’d expect less participation in the workforce, as masculine men are more likely to “rebel” and refuse society’s demand to work.

The second big explanation is the “sexual market.” Men used to want to earn money so they could get married and they wanted to get married so they could have sex. But now, lots of women aren’t interested in marriage and (some) men can get sex easily.

The third explanation is that video games, better TV, and the internet have provided a more attractive alternative to work.

I don’t see this as a very pressing problem, as a separate phenomenon from the wider problems of the current year such as low White fertility rates. If all these men got up tomorrow and started applying for jobs, it’d be disaster, because the jobs aren’t there. They were automated or sent to China.

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