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In a new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it found that a rising number of men in the U.S. are opting out of work. The researchers found that only 89 percent of working men have a job or are actively looking for work. To compare, in 1950, that number was 97 percent. According to the study, in the early 1950s, around 96 percent of working American men between the ages 25 and 54, were working full or part-time jobs, while that number has dropped down to 86 percent in recent years.

According to experts, as fewer men are able to financially support themselves, there are long-reaching economic and societal implications that go along with it. “The U.S. has a major issue of prime-age men giving up and permanently exiting the labor force,” Robin Brooks, a senior fellow policy research firm the Brookings Institution and the former chief economist at IIF, wrote on X. “What’s striking about this is that it doesn’t get talked about at all, not in the mainstream media and not by economists, even though this obviously feeds political radicalization.”

There are many reasons that could have caused the drop, one of them being the pandemic. In 2020, the number of working men was at 78 percent. Since the pandemic, the number recovered to pre-pandemic times, but still remains far below what the numbers were in the 1950s. Another factor could be men’s declining participation in higher education. While women were once excluded from universities, they now outpace men at college roughly 60 to 40 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those without a college degree are more likely to be unemployed. Those with only a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent compared to just 2.2 percent of those who achieved a bachelor’s degree.

Since 1950, there has also been growth in the United States’ safety social net. In 1960, only 455,000 workers had Social Security disability benefits, while that number grew exponentially to 7.6 million in 2022. “If the jobs don’t meet people’s needs, people can’t work,” Yvonne Vissing, a professor at Salem State University and an expert on the changing role of men in society. “It’s not that they won’t work. They can’t, given the job options, locations, tasks, hours, pay, and environments that are available.” Vissing also speculated that men may be leaving the workforce due to their dissatisfaction with capitalist society. “Many jobs are simply not satisfying,” Vissing said. “Working for others who get the benefit of our physical labor and intellectual property is not rewarding either emotionally or financially. People want to work doing jobs that matter to us. We want to use our creativity. We want to matter, and in many businesses, employees simply don’t get treated with the respect and support that we need and want. People walk away from them.”

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