NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Men's Participation In The Workforce Has Fallen

November 20, 1998

While women have entered the workforce at ever greater rates, the propensity of American men to work has fallen over the past 50 years, according to research by Edwin S. Rubenstein of the Hudson Institute. This has contributed to the continuing fall in the number of workers paying the payroll tax that supports Social Security beneficiaries.

  • Male labor force participation has fallen from 86.6 percent in 1948 to 75 percent in 1997.
  • If men ages 16 to 24 worked at 1948 rates, another 1.1 million workers would be added to the workforce.
  • And if men 55 and over continued to work at 1948 rates, 6.3 million workers would be added to the labor force.
  • The rate for men over 65 has fallen even further, from 46.8 percent in 1948 to less than 17.1 percent in 1997.

The low rate of participation by older men is probably due to the combined effects of transfer payments, marginal tax rates and retirement policies that encourage older males to stop working. Since the average male life expectancy rose by 8 years during this period -- from 64.6 years in 1948 to 72.6 years in 1995 -- they haven't stopped working because their health has deteriorated, say observers.

Source: Peter Brimelow, "Busters Versus Boomers," Forbes, November 16, 1998.


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