(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
More than 10 million men, or one out of every six in the 25 to 54 age bracket, are unemployed in the United States, and only about one third of them say they are actively seeking jobs. Experts believe this dire condition could also be causing declining marriage rates.
"Some of them are looking for jobs. Two-thirds say they aren't. Some are supported by families or friends; men without jobs are far less likely to be married than men with jobs. About 2 million of these prime-age men are on Social Security Disability Insurance," said David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution in a report Thursday.
Noting the acute and chronic nature of the unemployment situation among men, Wessel said it was a result of the slow recovery of the U.S. economy from the Great Recession as well as a shift away from the types of work popular among men before the recession. Even as the economy improves, however, he pointed out that employment troubles among men is likely to persist.
"In the early 1970s, just 6 percent of American men ages 25 to 54 were without jobs. By late 2007, it was 13 percent. In 2009, during the worst of the recession, nearly 20 percent didn't have jobs. Even though the unemployment rate is falling, 17 percent of these men aren't working," said Wessel.
"The costs of having so many prime age men on the sidelines of the economy can be measured in lost wages, the rising tab for government benefits, foreclosures and bankruptcies. But the costs go beyond dollars and cents. As my Brookings colleague Ron Haskins has noted, the decline in the share of men who are working might be one reason behind the fall in marriage rates. Men without jobs don't make very attractive mates," said Wessel.
He pointed out that a big portion of unemployed men are unskilled with lower levels of education, but said a better economy with higher wages being paid for low-skilled jobs could entice men to get off the couch.