November 9, 2017
For Immediate Release: November 9, 2017
Washington D.C. — “What to Do About Men Who Aren’t Working.” “Work Wanted: Why men aren’t working?” “Do men play video games instead of work?” – These are all recent headlines describing what seems to be a budding labor market problem.
Brian Dew, Research Assistant at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, (CEPR), investigated the data behind these headlines. The resulting briefing paper, “The Problem with Blaming Men for Not Working: A Comparison of Labor Market Outcomes for Men and Women,” released today, concludes the problem isn’t specific to men. Both men and women have faced a long period of unfavorable job opportunities, resulting in declining employment rates.
Typically, economists focus on employment trends among what the census defines as the “prime age” population – those 25 to 54 who are most likely to be active in the labor market. To reduce the effect of changing demographics within this age band, Dew compared employment rates of prime-age men and women from 2000 – 2017 with the same education levels, but within smaller, ten-year age subgroups.
For two of the three age groups with a high school or less education, women’s employment outcomes since 2000 have worsened substantially compared to men’s. Men’s employment recovered from the Great Recession at a higher rate than women’s in all three age subgroups. Since 2000, employment rates have fallen for all working-age women (above 16) at all education levels.
Other factors may have played a role in pushing down employment rates for both men and women. “Policies did not allow the labor market to tighten enough,” said Dew. Specifically, “The federal minimum wage hasn’t kept up with inflation, unions have been weakened, firms are consolidating, and trade policies have encouraged moving manufacturing abroad without sufficient help for job losers and their communities.”
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