The US once had one of the highest employment rates of the world's developed nations. Now, not so much. And men in particular aren't working as much as they used to. In 2000, 89% of men aged 25 to 54 went to work, compared to 95% in the late 1960s. Today, just 84% of men in that age group are employed, but of those out of work, two-thirds aren't actually looking for a job, the New York Times reports. About 13% are in school, while 20% are disabled and unlikely to work again. But "deep changes in American society," like access to federal disability benefits and lower marriage rates, have also made it easier for men to willfully avoid employment, the Times reports. One survey showed 44% of unemployed men were unwilling to take jobs in their areas.
A study finds the costs involved with working—including education, child care, and health care—have spiked since 1990, while the prices of food, clothing, and computers have risen more gradually. An economist adds that the Internet has allowed unemployed men to socialize unlike in previous generations, so unemployment feels less lonely. The pressure to find a job may also be eased with the decline of marriage since fewer men have children to care for. Just 28% of unemployed men in one survey said a child under 18 lived with them. All of these factors converge into one big problem: Fewer workers mean a slower-growing economy. Plus, it leaves "a smaller share of the population to cover the cost of government, even as a larger share seeks help," the Times notes. (Read more unemployed stories.)