We noted last week that some five million Americans who could be and should be working are mysteriously missing from the labor force. The vast majority of these missing workers are men in their prime working ages.
The labor force participation rate of men in their prime working years (25-54) has declined by eight percentage points, from 97.0 percent in 1963 to 89.1 percent in 2023.
This has many negative economic and social impacts on family stability, depression, lower life expectancies, and increased drug abuse. The report shows, for example, that according to The Centers for Disease Control reported that 49,500 people killed themselves in 2022, the highest number on record. Four-fifths of the suicides were men.
One reason more men are not working is government benefits. Since 1980, for example, the number of men receiving disability payments has tripled from three to nine million. That’s hard to explain given that the rate of worker accidents has fallen dramatically over the past forty years and the types of jobs that men do today are much less dangerous than in past decades.
Senator Marco Rubio has spotlighted this problem, and though we don’t agree with some of his policy conclusions, he is right that policies like deregulation with a focus on unburdening extraction and manufacturing, strong work requirements for welfare, cracking down on improper disability claims, and eliminating marriage tax penalties would help.