There’s More to a Job Than Making Money

More than 11 percent of prime working-age men in the U.S. are outside the job market. Why is that, and can anything be done about it?

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

The most fundamental cause of economic poverty,” said Richmond’s 2013 poverty commission report, “is inadequate access to remunerative employment—that is, to good, steady jobs.”

The absence of work causes other kinds of poverty, too. As Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser points out in a new article for City Journal, “jobless husbands have a 50 percent higher divorce rate than employed husbands.” The loss of a job inflicts a much greater degree of unhappiness than a reduction of income does. A loss of income likewise causes much less divorce, and much less suicide, than the loss of a job does. Jobs matter for reasons beyond money.

What’s more: “Jobless men don’t do a lot more socializing; they don’t spend much more time with their kids. They do spend an extra 100 minutes daily watching television, and they sleep more. The jobless are also more likely to use illegal drugs. … 18 percent of the unemployed have done drugs in the last seven days.”

Nicholas Eberstadt draws an even more finely grained and depressing picture in his book Men Without Work. He, and Glaeser, The New York Times, and many others focus attention on a dilemma no one seems to know how to fix. As The Times put it in a headline last year, “Millions of Men Are Missing From the Job Market.”

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