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The Well-being Implications of Being Out of the Labor Force

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The global economy has many paradoxes. Despite national progress in technology, reducing poverty, and increasing life expectancy, the poorest states lag behind, and there is increasing inequality and anomie in the wealthiest ones. A key driver of the latter is the decline in the status and wages of low-skilled laborers. A related feature is the increase in prime age males (and to a lesser extent women) simply dropping out of the labor force, particularly in the USA. This cohort is not just simply temporarily unemployed but lacks any formal labor market attachment. This same group – prime-age males out of the labor force (OLF) – is overrepresented in “deaths of despair”: deaths by alcohol poisoning, overdose, or suicide. Prime age males OLF in the USA are the least hopeful and most stressed and angry compared to the same group in other regions, including the Middle East. Recent research aims to better understand this cohort as part of a broader need to re-think traditional economics explanations. Researchers have also begun to explore policies that encourage the participation of able workers in the new global economy and provide incentives for community involvement and other forms of engagement for those who can no longer work. This chapter summarizes the extant literature and contributes an overview perspective by focusing on the links between political disaffection and unhappiness and com- paring the well-being of prime age males in and out of the labor force across different regions of the globe.

Graham C., Pinto S. (2021) The Well-being Implications of Being Out of the Labor Force. In: Zimmermann K.F. (eds) Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics. Springer, Cham.

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