The plain fact is that men in what are generally regarded as conventional working ages have been increasingly opting out of the workforce altogether. This arresting fact is brought home in Figure 4, which tracks employment ratios and labor force participation ratios for men 25 to 54-prime years of working life.
In the early 1950s, practically all men in this age group were either working or looking for work-fewer than 3 men out of every 100 were out of the labor force. By contrast, over 11 out of every 100 men of prime working age are completely out of the labor force today-one in nine, fully four times the fraction back in the early postwar era. This flight from work at prime working ages accounts for the vast majority of the 13 percentage point drop in employment ratios reported for this key demographic group over the past sixty years (i.e., 1953-2013)
So what exactly has been going on with work in modern America? Or more specifically: what is wrong with work in modern America? Why is there so much less of it now?