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By one reading, things look pretty good for Americans today: the country is richer than ever before and the unemployment rate is down by half since the Great Recession—lower today, in fact, than for most of the postwar era.

But a closer look shows that something is going seriously wrong. This is the collapse of work—most especially among America’s men. Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, shows that while “unemployment” has gone down, America’s work rate is also lower today than a generation ago—and that the work rate for US men has been spiraling downward for half a century. Astonishingly, the work rate for American males aged twenty-five to fifty-four—or “men of prime working age”—was actually slightly lower in 2015 than it had been in 1940: before the War, and at the tail end of the Great Depression.

Today, nearly one in six prime working age men has no paid work at all—and nearly one in eight is out of the labor force entirely, neither working nor even looking for work. This new normal of “men without work,” argues Eberstadt, is “America’s invisible crisis.”

So who are these men? How did they get there? What are they doing with their time? And what are the implications of this exit from work for American society?

Nicholas Eberstadt lays out the issue and Jared Bernstein from the left and Henry Olsen from the right offer their responses to this national crisis.

Men without Work is part of the New Threats to Freedom Series, which you can learn more about at

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Acknowledgments / ix

Introduction / 3

Part 1: Men Without Work

1: The Collapse of Work in the Second Gilded Age / 9

2: Hiding in Plain Sight: An Army of Jobless Men, Lost in an Overlooked Depression / 18

3: Postwar America’s Great Male Flight from Work / 32

4: America’s Great Male Flight from Work in Historical and International Perspective / 47

5: Who Is He? A Statistical Portrait of the Un-Working American Man / 61

6: Idle Hands: Time Use, Social Participation, and the Male Flight from Work / 78

7: Long-Term Structural Forces and the Decline of Work for American Men? / 97

8: Dependence, Disability, and Living Standards for Un-working Men / 110

9: Criminality and the Decline of Work for American Men / 129

10: What Is to Be Done? / 149

Part 2: Dissenting Points of View

11: Title to Come by Henry Olsen / 159

12: Title to Come by Jared Bernstein / 168

Epilogue: Reply to Jared Bernstein and Henry Olsen / 179

Notes / 187

About the Contributors / 205

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The Ellsworth American (Opinion Section)–December 21, 2016


“If you’re trying to understand why so many Americans voted for Trump, three books will help you out: Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis by Nicholas Eberstadt and Coming Apart by Charles Murray.”

– Jonette Christian

CNS News–February 9, 2017


“[Eberstadt] doesn’t usually cover American domestic issues, but anyone interested in social trends has to take him very seriously.”

– Martin Morse Wooster

National Review–January 23, 2017

“Nicholas Eberstadt has become one of our highest-impact socioeconomic and demographic analysts, rivaling his American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray. In Men without Work, he alerts us to a new ‘invisible national crisis.’

“Eberstadt is thus pointing to a fatal flaw—a sexual suicide in an American polity where women outvote men and prefer socialism and stasis over progress and prosperity, where they choose dependency on government over collaboration with husbands and family.”

– George Gilder

Philanthropy Magazine–Winter 2017

“Too many Americans today are unemployed or lack the skills to thrive in our modern economy. Many of these individuals rely on welfare or disability payments instead of earned income. Nicholas Eberstadt’s Men Without Work reveals the depth of this problem, and warns that the pattern of prime-age males fleeing work can no longer safely be ignored.”

– David Bass

The Stream–December 7, 2016

“[A] masterful study.”

– John Horvat, II

New York Times

“[A]n unsettling portrait not just of male unemployment, but also of lives deeply alienated from civil society.”

– Susan Chira

The Globe and Mail–October 15, 2016

“Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis is essential reading for this election cycle.”

– Margaret Wente

Business Economics

“[A] valuable addition to our understanding of very important trends in US labor markets and I highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking a clear and very accessible treatment of the issues and their potential causes.”

– Michael W. Horrigan

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