The continuing adventures of trying to explain why men are missing from the workforce


Gotta scratch that itch that emerges when you can’t see the forest for the trees, I guess.

We’ve gotten video games, internet porn, and now prescription painkillers:

Princeton professor Alan Krueger, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor and former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has taken a look at the same data — but he came away with a different conclusion.

What stood out to him is that a lot of these men say they are in considerable pain.

In a recently released draft of his paper, which he will present at a Federal Reserve conference in Boston on Friday, Krueger finds that 44 percent of male, prime-age labor force dropouts say they took pain medication the day prior — which is more than twice the rate reported by employed men.

Jeff Guo goes on to explain Krueger’s analysis comparing the rise of prescription drug use with employment status and self-reported feelings of anomie. To Guo’s credit he does actually mention that this phenomena of disemployment and painkillers also affects women, but this tale is more important when we myopically focus on men. They’re not working because they’re in psychological and physical pain. And in thunderingly typical #liberalismisworking fashion, the basic response should be getting better at “diagnosing and fixing these health problems” with tax credits and wage subsidies to help these boys get back on their feet.

Remarkably there’s no mention of how the economy has changed, either in the last fifty years (other than to note the growth of women in the workforce) or even in the last ten. Nor anything resembling a larger context that would present a case that economic forces larger than any one individual might be producing the myriad of demographic effects and social ills that must, apparently, be diagnosed as the disease and not a symptom.

This is a C. Wright Mills shaking-my-damn-head moment. We have failed to frame people’s very real troubles in the context of the causal issues that affect everyone. Men and women have lower labor force participation rates because there isn’t enough demand for their work. They don’t have the money to produce the need for more employment to satisfy their demand for more goods and services. There aren’t enough jobs, and what’s left is physically taxing and psychologically draining in a developed country with laughably insufficient physical and mental health care services. The type of demand to counteract these downstream effects isn’t there. The demand. The demand. The demand. Until the end of time or Elon Musk moves us all to Mars, it’s the demand.


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