But there’s no question that some folks just gave up altogether, which is a bad thing if you care about having a growing economy or an engaged population. This trend hit men especially hard, as Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, among others, has pointed out: “The share of prime-age men (ages 25-54) who are neither working nor looking for work has doubled since the 1970s,” he wrote midway through 2016.
Thompson goes on to cite an Obama administration economic report showing that these millions of missing men tend to be young and living in the South, are less likely to have children, are disproportionately black and less educated.
When people of prime working age check out of the economy, they check out of American life. They go off the grid as it relates to the things that generally make for a healthy society, like creating families and operating their lives with the sense of purpose that leads people to serve their communities.