Ben Casselman has a NYT piece today discussing new research finding the Great Recession has had a lasting impact on prime-age employment and earnings. It’s a good piece on what looks like important research, but in one paragraph, Casselman cites other research he says links employment among men “in particular” to opioids, disability insurance, and video games. This is the most recent example of something Dean Baker wrote about last year: “implying that the problem of people dropping out of the labor force is a story about men is seriously misleading.”
To the points Dean made last year, I’d add a few more.
First, among prime-age adults, working-class women (HS or less) have fared even worse than working-class men, both in the aftermath of the Great Recession and since 2000. The employment rate for prime-age working-class women is about 8.2 percentage points lower today than in 2000; for prime-age working-class men, it’s 6 percentage points lower. As a result, the large employment gap between working-class men and women is wider today than in 2000.
Second, while men have always been disproportionately employed in manufacturing, and have lost more manufacturing jobs in absolute terms over time, manufacturing decline isn’t just a men’s story. In fact, in percentage terms, women’s employment in manufacturing has declined more since 2000 than men’s.
Third, since 2000, a substantial gap has opened between employment rates for prime-age women in the US and those in many other OECD nations (including Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). The US is also something of an under-performer when it comes to prime-age men’s employment but the gaps are generally much larger for US women than US men.
Finally, there is little reason to think that the impact of disability and health on prime-age employment is a “particularly men” issue. Nearly as many women receive SSDI today as men. In a recent report, researchers at the Hamilton Project note that about the same number of prime-age men and prime-age women report being out of the labor force due to a disability. And other researchers have documented how the “US health disadvantage has been growing particularly among women.”