Wednesday, May 11, 2011

American Idle

In 1954, about 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 worked. Today it's around 80 percent.

One-fifth of all men of prime working age are not working.

American Idle, indeed.

Columnist David Brooks, writing in the New York Times on May 12, delivers some powerful (and thought-provoking) thoughts on the subject. Read the whole article here.

Consider these sobering facts:
  • Part of the problem is human capital. More American men lack the emotional and professional skills they need. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 35 percent of those without a high school diploma are out of the labor force, compared with less than 10 percent of those with a college degree.
  • Part of the problem has to do with structural changes in the economy. Sectors like government, health care and leisure have grown, generating jobs for college grads. Manufacturing, agriculture and energy haven't been generating more jobs, as companies use machines or foreign workers.
  • Probably more men are idle now than at any time since the Great Depression. This time the problem is mostly structural, not cyclical. They will find it hard to attract spouses. Many will pick up habits that have a corrosive cultural influence on those around them. The country won't benefit from their potential.
Bringing the missing fifth back into the labor market and using their capabilities will require money. If this were a smart country, we'd be debating how to shift money from programs that provide comfort toward those that spark reinvigoration.

But we probably won't.

What are the implications for ChurchWorld?

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