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To put it another way: while many economists argue that the economy is currently at or near “full employment,” the work rate for men 20 and older was over a fifth lower than it was in 1948.
Of course, this particular measure includes men 65 and older — that is, those of traditional retirement age.
Over the past two generations, America has suffered a quiet catastrophe in the collapse of work for men.
In the half-century between 19, work rates (the ratio of employment to population) for the American male spiraled relentlessly downward — a seeming flight from work in which ever-greater numbers of working-age men exited the labor force altogether.
That contrast offers insight into a number of overarching features of our time, including rising sentiments of anger and despair — and the increasing attraction of both right- and left-wing populism.
It also helps to explain why majorities in public opinion surveys tell pollsters that America is still stuck in the midst of a recession in spite of the reality that the officially recorded unemployment rate (4.7 percent as of January 2017) is close to the record lows enjoyed in 2000.
Like most people excited about going to see Kate Bush in concert next month I will have never seen her play live before.
Concert footage of her only performance run, 1979’s Tour of Life, a recording of which was released as Live at Hammersmith Odeon, was one of the four videos we possessed when my father reluctantly acquired a machine in the late Eighties, and the VHS tape, although it actually belonged to my brother, became nearly worn out with my obsessive viewing.
By 2015, nearly 22 percent of the age 20-to-64 group of men was reportedly not engaged in paid work of any kind.
America is now home to an army of prime-working-age men, some seven million of them ages 25 to 54, who no longer even look for work.
Consider a single fact: in 2015, the work-rate of males aged 25 to 54 was slightly lower than it had been in 1940, when the official unemployment rate was 14.6 percent and the United States was just coming out of a decade of depression in which the search for work was usually futile.
This was nearly 12.5 percentage points more than the 1948 level — meaning the fraction of men ages 20-64 not at work was more than twice as high in 2015 as in 1948.
As for prime-age men — the 25-54 group, the segment for whom paid employment has always been highest — work rates sank almost 10 percentage points in the same period, from 94.1 percent to 84.3 percent.