Where have all the young men gone? - February 2017

 2/10/2017 10:44 AM

The world is changing, and changing fast. As we move into an economy that is dominated by brainpower and cooperative work, we are seeing a huge decline in the number of men who are working...

The world is changing, and changing fast. As we move into an economy that is dominated by brainpower and cooperative work, we are seeing a huge decline in the number of men who are working.

Fifty years ago, 98 percent of men between age 25 and 54, the most productive working years, were employed. Today, only 88 percent of men in that age group have jobs. This equates to about 10 million men who are sitting on their butts with no interest in getting a job.

Now admittedly, the top end of the workforce is still dominated by men. Men account for more than 90 percent of the CEOs and global political leaders. They dominate finance, technology, athletics and entertainment.

But at the bottom end of the workforce, where jobs require brawn rather than brains, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for men to get jobs. The jobs of today require brains rather than brawn and a disproportionate share of men have a lot more brawn than brains. The result is that 10 million men have stopped looking for work.

They also have fallen into depression. Obesity is widespread among these men, as are alcohol and drug abuse. They are four times as likely to commit suicide as an unemployed woman. They also are likely to suffer from chronic pain. Most importantly, they are unlikely to have more than a high school diploma.

Technology has been the biggest cause of the decline of brawn jobs. In factories and on construction sites innovation has displaced countless jobs. Some have moved abroad but the need for simple, mindless labor just isn’t what it used to be. 

Women now dominate college applications. More importantly, they are more likely to finish college than are men. And the job fields that are growing, such as health care, tend to be thought of as more natural fits for women. 

So why have we seen this change? Why are women out performing men in academics? Many reasons have been put forth. Chief among them has been the feminization of education. Academic training is starting at younger and younger ages and girls are more prepared for these rigors than are young boys. Teachers also are more likely to be women who have an innate understanding of girls but not boys.

School designed for girls is boring for many boys, who rebel by fidgeting and otherwise acting out. To deal with this, in the past 30 years there has been an explosion in Ritalin prescriptions to keep boys docile and attentive. Some studies have tied the lack of ambition among many young men to earlier use of Ritalin.

And it seems those video games may really be damaging. When your brain will release the same chemicals for achieving the next level of a game as it will for scoring the winning touchdown, why take the risk of real life? Game playing among the workforce dropouts is extremely high.

Our education system is failing boys in much the same way it failed girls for generations and it needs to be changed. When I was growing up, the idea of attending an all-boy school was anathema to me. While the academic analysis of single-sex education is somewhat inconclusive, based on my own son’s experience at an all-boy high school, I am a true believer in it, at least for boys.

Employment is food for the soul as well as for the body. If you sit around all day playing video games in your mother's basement, it is easy to see why you become depressed. If you’re also overweight and have no job, it's hard to find a woman who will marry you.

And this is the real problem. Men who become useless have a hard time raising families. This means women who want children are more likely to have them on their own. Hey, if you’re the only one working, can you afford a worthless mouth to feed? 

 

But kids who grow up in single-parent households are more likely to have problems in school. They are less likely to go to college. And if they’re boys, they’re less likely to get a job, and the whole cycle repeats.