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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

Civil rights leaders plan a day of voting rights marches

Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton. Photo: Cheriss May/Getty Images

Civil rights leaders from Washington to Phoenix are planning marches on Aug. 28 to push Congress to pass new protections around voting rights.

Why it matters: A landmark voting rights proposal remains stalled in the U.S. Senate, as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other moderates block efforts at filibuster reforms to advance a bill held up by Republicans.

Latinos twice as likely as white people to die from gunfire

Expand chart
Data: Violence Policy Center; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nearly 3,000 Latinos each year have died from gunfire in the United States over the last two decades, making them twice as likely to be shot to death than white non-Hispanics, according to a study from the Violence Policy Center.

By the numbers: Almost 70,000 Latinos were killed with firearms between 1999 and 2019, 66% of them in homicides, according to the center’s data analysis.

Top labor leader Richard Trumka dies unexpectedly at 72

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who led the largest federation of unions in the country for over a decade, has died at 72.

The big picture: Trumka began working as a coal miner in 1968 and would go on to dedicate his life to the labor movement, including as president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO beginning in 2009.