In recent decades there was a steady rise in the employment-to-population ratio: For every 100 working-age Americans, there were eight more workers in 2000 than in 1960. The increase entirely reflects higher female participation in the labor force. Yet in the years since 2000, more than two-thirds of that increase in working-age population employed was erased. …

Why are Americans working less? While there are a number of factors, the phenomenon is due mainly to a variety of public policies that have reduced the incentives to be employed. These policies include:

• Food stamps. Above all else, people work to eat. If the government provides food, then the imperative to work is severely reduced. Since the food-stamp program’s beginning in the 1960s, it has grown considerably, but especially so in the 21st century: There are over 30 million more Americans receiving food stamps today than in 2000. …

• Social Security disability payments. The health of Americans has improved, and the decline in the number of relatively dangerous industrial production and mining jobs should have led to a smaller proportion of Americans unable to work because of disability. Yet the opposite is the case.