Trends In Men Who Don't Work

In a recent article Amanda Cox, of the New York Times' The Upshot, examined changes in the makeup of the unemployed male population since the turn of the 21st century, with a particular focus on prime-age nonworkers (i.e. men between the ages of 25 and 54).

Using data from the US Census Bureau as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cox found that in 2014 about 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 were not working, up from 11 percent in 2000.  Only about a third of the increase can be explained by an increase in official unemployment (the share of people not working and actively looking for work).

The bulk of the increase in prime-age nonworkers has to do with changes in the number of men who are disabled, ill, in school, taking care of house or family, or in retirement.  According to Cox:

  • "About 13 percent of the increase in prime-age nonworkers, including a substantial fraction of the younger ones, comes among people who say they are in school."
  • "Men who identify as homemakers remain relatively rare, but they are about twice as common as they were in 2000."
  • "About 20 percent of the new nonworkers say they are disabled, a category whose numbers have risen particularly for workers above age 50."
  • "Among prime-age workers, early retirement has increased slightly since 2000. Far more drastic changes have occured among workers 55 and older, who have been doing the opposite and putting off retirement."

Read more: resources:
Unemployment rate by age, January 1948 to July 2009 (
Economy Track: Employment to Population Ratio (
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject (
Labor participation rate, male (% of male population ages 15+ (
Exploring the Second Shift: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Frederique Laubepin

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