Why have so many American men quit work?
- December 9, 2022
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Many men in the US retire when their income falls relative to their better-paid peers, new research shows. The study found that when workers’ relative earnings fall, more men drop out.
The Federal Reserve of Boston’s findings help explain a trend that has puzzled economists for decades: why so many men have given up on the idea of keeping a job. Around every ninth man between the ages of 25 and 54, the best working years for a person, is no longer on the labor market; that compared to one in 50 in the mid-1950s.
The trend was mainly driven by working-age males without a college degree, who are at higher rates of retirement, according to the study. The results show that since 1980, workers without a four-year college degree have consistently made less than their college-educated peers.
Over the 40-year study period, earnings for prime-aged men without a degree fell 17%, while wages for college-educated magicians rose 20%, wrote the study’s author, economist Pinghui Wu.
In addition to looking at the income effect, the study also considers the economic security and social status that jobs provide. The results suggest that men who have seen their social status and earning power erode over time may have lost their incentive to work.
“For many workers, a job not only provides financial security, it also validates their status, which is tied to their position in relation to their peers and many social outcomes,” Wu wrote.
Other economists have theorized that the decline in manufacturing jobs has pushed men out of the workforce. But sectors like manufacturing and construction have steadily created new jobs.