Work activity among prime-age (25 to 54) men in America has declined precipitously, leaving seven million or more working-age men in the US outside the labor force. The causes are widespread and include a lack of postsecondary education, dependence on benefit programs, opioid dependency, the rising prevalence of criminal records, a lack of available jobs in economically distressed areas, and weakening cultural norms. A wide range of policies should be implemented to address these causes. These include increased education and training, subsidized jobs for the hard-to-employ, wage subsidies or tax credits to make low-wage jobs more attractive, and major reforms to disability insurance and government assistance programs that encourage more work. Populations facing the most severe barriers to work, such as ex-offenders, noncustodial parents, and those with opioid dependencies, deserve particular focus. More broadly, communicating to men that they are expected to be productively engaged in work is important as well. (Author abstract)
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