Skip to main content

men not at work

September 26th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Matthew Loftus

Senator Mike Lee’s office has been doing fantastic work investigating America’s declining social capital, and this report on men out of the workforce has a lot to chew on:

We confirm research by other scholars that a large number of inactive men are unambiguously and seriously sick or disabled. We provide new information, showing that many inactive men have poor physical health, poor mental health, or both. Over one-third of them (and nearly three in five disabled inactive men) are in the bottom quarter, nationally, of both physical and mental health.

Inactive men have fewer skills than employed men and live in poorer homes, often relying on public safety nets to get by. Two-thirds of inactive men personally received government assistance in the preceding year.

One-third of inactive men have been incarcerated (including nearly half of disabled inactive men). Along with other evidence presented here on mobility-impeding behavior, such high incarceration rates suggest employment challenges.

Though inactive men are relatively unlikely to have children, when they do, they are more likely than employed fathers to have children outside the home. Yet they are less likely to pay child support to the mothers of those children, possibly reflecting the disincentive to work that child support obligations create.

Finally, compared with employed men, inactive men are more socially isolated, less happy, and have more adverse childhood experiences to overcome. Productive social capital can provide opportunities to adults integrated into the world of work, but deficient social capital can limit the opportunities of children who will grow into inactive adults.


Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at