The percentage of American men who are working has declined since the 1970s. As I write in my book, Man Out: Men on the Sidelines of American Life, about 12-13 million adult men are not in the work force, more than 2 million young men are neither in jobs or school, 2 million men are incarcerated, 4 million men are unemployed (by the Labor Department’s definition–that they are out of work and have actively looked for a job during the last month).
Despite rosy official unemployment numbers, a smaller percentage of American men are working than the percentage in nearly all advanced economies. Why is this happening? The economy really isn’t as good as many portray it. Other factors, often not associated with labor force participation rates, also have played a part–opioids and drug and alcohol abuse, health and mental-health problems, loneliness, conflicting messages about what it means to be a man, the decline of marriage among the working class and poor, addiction to online games, men’s poor educational attainment relative to women, the decline of (one-male) civic organizations, tensions between the sexes, mass incarceration.