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Men Without Work in the Post-Pandemic Era

American Enterprise Institute

September 19, 2022

Event Summary

On September 19, Harvard University’s Lawrence Summers and AEI’s Michael Strain joined AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt to discuss the new edition of Mr. Eberstadt’s book, Men Without Work: Post-Pandemic Edition (Templeton Press, 2022). Mr. Eberstadt began by describing the decades-long flight from work by prime-age (25–54) men and the broadening of that trend to other demographics following COVID-19.

Dr. Summers concurred with Mr. Eberstadt’s assessment that record-high job openings preclude the possibility of primarily demand-driven worklessness, but he disputed Mr. Eberstadt’s judgment that incentives from transfer payments have been a meaningful factor in the rise of worklessness and suggested that sociological assessments might have more to offer than purely economic ones.

Dr. Strain offered a complication in the demand- and supply-side dichotomy by noting that trends in workforce participation rates through the pandemic and the recovery have not been uniform across demographic segments. Dr. Strain also suggested that, while incremental transfer payments may have immaterial effects on the labor force, the practical combinations might have significant effects on labor force participation. Dr. Summers suggested this was not compelling.

Event Description

The pathbreaking book Men Without Work (Templeton Press, 2016) by AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt casts a spotlight on an “invisible crisis”: the collapse of employment for men of prime working age (25–54), driven by a long-term exodus from the workforce. Unfortunately, America’s worklessness problem has worsened since COVID-19. Paradoxically, today America suffers an unprecedented peacetime labor shortage as millions of former workers stubbornly sit on the sidelines of the economy.

In Men Without Work: Post-Pandemic Edition (Templeton Press, 2022), Mr. Eberstadt shows how the pandemic and Washington’s policy responses to it have led to a new “flight from work,” seemingly spreading to other groups, including the graying workforce and younger women.

Please join Mr. Eberstadt and Harvard University’s Lawrence H. Summers for a conversation on the crisis facing America’s workforce.

Event Materials

America’s Work Crisis Enters a New Phase

Event Transcript


10:30 a.m.
Michael R. Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies, AEI

10:35 a.m.
Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, AEI

10:50 a.m.
Panel Discussion
Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, AEI
Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University

Michael R. Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies, AEI

11:15 a.m.

11:30 a.m.