The New York Times‘ excellent data analysis site the Upshot posted two interactive infographics this week detailing the decline of men between the ages of 25 and 54 in the workforce over the past 15 years. Due to fallout from the recession, there are more men in their prime who are unemployed now compared with 15 years ago, and many more than there were during the ’50s and ’60s. In the mid-century, only about 5% of 25- to 54-year-old men weren’t working, a figure that has now grown to 16%.
One of the two infographics that the Upshot created maps the decline of working men across the U.S. by Census-tract borders and by county. Glance at this visualization, and it’s easy to see where our economy hurts the most. In affluent areas like San Francisco and Manhattan, most prime-age men are working; in areas like Appalachia and southwestern states like New Mexico and Arizona the percentage of men out of work can be in the 50% to 80% range. Looking at a city like Chicago or Detroit, the darker areas, which represent higher unemployment among men, are clearly located in the poor and often largely African-American parts of town.
The other visualization the Upshot released answers the question: If all these men are not working, what are they doing instead? Most people out of work are not officially unemployed. That number makes up only about a third of the men who are not working. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen leaps in the number of young men in school without a job, the number of people on disability benefits, and even men who are taking care of their families and homes (still a small percentage, but it has doubled since 2000). Meanwhile, older people are staying in the workforce much longer than their predecessors. Other countries, particularly in Scandinavia, have laws that mandate retirement, believing that late retirement could contribute to fewer jobs for workers in their prime, but the Upshot points out that studies have shown this isn’t the case.