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Expand chart
Data: EPI analysis of Current Population Survey, Census Bureau American Community Survey via IPUMS Abacus; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Young and less educated men are losing their place in the U.S. workforce.

Why it matters: Technology and automation, shrinking unions and changing family dynamics have transformed the role of men in the workforce, while male high school graduates either need to pursue higher education or enter lower-paid industries traditionally dominated by women.

1. The shifting workforce

Technology, globalization and the shrinking of unions have led to lower wages and disappearing blue collar jobs, Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and former chief economist for the Department of Labor, told Axios.

  • In their place, unskilled jobs in health care and secretarial work are booming — occupations traditionally dominated by women. But sociologists have found young men reluctant to take what they perceive to be "woman" jobs.
  • "They don't see themselves as doing that or think it's a feminized job," Robert Moffitt from John Hopkins University told Axios. "Even though the wages are not too bad, they don't want to enter those occupations."

Be smart: Less educated women have seen their wages rise as their male counterparts' have fallen, but women are still less likely to be in the workforce than men, hold far fewer leadership roles and in many cases are paid less.

2. The modern family

Establishing financial stability is no longer a prerequisite for sex or even fatherhood, and 40% of U.S. babies are now born out of wedlock.

  • "An ironic consequence of the sexual revolution is that by making sex outside of marriage safer and more permissible, it may also have reduced the incentive for people to marry," said David Autor an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • At the same time, unmarried fathers aren't faced with the same societal expectation that they provide financially for their children. "They don't feel as burning a need to work," Autor said.
"The opportunities that [men are] facing don't align with their expectations, and it's also somehow socially acceptable for them not to be working,"
— Katharine Abraham, Director of the Maryland Center for Economics and Policy and former Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
3. Drugs and prison

Men have also been disproportionately impacted by high incarceration rates and the opioid epidemic. Finding a job with a criminal record is extremely difficult and keeping a job is much harder while struggling with addiction, multiple economists said.

  • Yes, but: The relation between employment and opioids or incarceration is cyclical — those who are unable to find work are also more likely to turn to crime or addiction, Abraham pointed out.

What's next: These trends exist in a healthy economy and tight labor markets. Most economists predict an economic downturn would be disastrous for young, uneducated men looking for a job. But there's one optimistic trend: Americans are more educated than ever, and college degrees are generally paying off.

Go deeper

Making sense of Biden's big emissions promise

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden's new U.S. emissions-cutting target is a sign of White House ambition and a number that distills the tough political and policy maneuvers needed to realize those aims.

Driving the news: This morning the White House unveiled a nonbinding goal under the Paris Agreement that calls for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 relative to 2005 levels.

Biden pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by 2030

U.S. President Joe Biden seen in the Oval Office on April 15. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is moving to address global warming by setting a new, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Why it matters: The new, non-binding target is about twice as ambitious as the previous U.S. target of a 26% to 28% cut by 2025, which was set during the Obama administration. White House officials described the goal as ambitious but achievable during a call with reporters Tuesday night.

2 hours ago - Health

Health care workers feel stress, burnout more than a year into the pandemic

Photo: Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, some 3 in 10 health care professionals say they've considered leaving the profession, citing burnout and stress, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll out Thursday indicates.

Why it matters: Studies throughout the pandemic have indicated rising rates of depression and trauma among health care workers, group that is no longer seeing the same public displays of gratitude as during the onset of the pandemic.