Sen. Marco Rubio's Report on the Working (and Non-Working) Man


For Labor Day, Senator Marco Rubio’s office issued a report on “The State of the Working (and Non-Working) Man.” I thought it was very interesting and wanted to highlight parts of it.

The first section describes the challenges men are facing today, summarizing things that most of you have probably already read about:

From the schoolhouse to the workforce, boys and men are falling behind and failing to live up to their potential—especially in comparison to girls and women, who have notched impressive gains across the board. The gap emerges as early as grade school, where boys underperform girls in English and math in virtually every state. The problem continues in high school, where boys are less likely to graduate on time. The problem is perhaps most visible on college campuses, where there is now a larger gender gap in awarded bachelor’s degrees favoring females than there was favoring males in 1972. Most medical and law students are now women; only in business schools do men retain an edge in professional degrees, and even that advantage is dwindling. The problem has gotten so bad that some colleges have begun practicing affirmative action for men.

The report focuses on prime working age men who are neither working nor in school. This echoes the argument that economist Ed Glaeser made that we should focus particularly on joblessness rather than income inequality, because the social results for men who are not working are so grim.

Male non-work is associated with many other forms of pathology. The economist Alan Kreuger found that prime-age men who are not in the labor force report feeling sad and purposeless at much higher rates than men with jobs. They are isolated, spending more than 50 percent more time alone each day than those who are working. In all, nonworking adult men spend about one-third of their waking hours in isolation. More than two-thirds have never married. Close to a third live with their parents. Nearly half take painkillers every day. And they are more likely to take their own lives. Men are the victims in three-quarters of so-called “deaths of despair,” or deaths attributable to suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning. Adults out of the labor force are at much higher risk of dying in those ways, with twice the risk of suicide and a staggering seven times the risk of accidental poisoning.

These statistics paint a bleak portrait of life for the millions of men without work in this country. Devoid of purpose, they are sinking into a morass of dissolution and self-destruction. The situation is better for working men, but they face a crisis of their own: their outcomes and prospects in work, education, and family life are dimmer than their fathers’, and growing dimmer still. The days of the prosperous yeoman are no more. America’s men face an economy and society that no longer reward their efforts the way they once did, and in some cases are hostile to them.

The report then goes through a number of possible factors that have contributed to this state of affairs, including deindustrialization and the rise of the service economy, the prioritization of college over other career pathways, mass immigration, the welfare and disability trap, and a cultural and technological revolution.

It is interesting to see how Sen. Rubio’s views on immigration have evolved, as he was originally one of the “Gang of Eight” promoting an immigration reform solution viewed as soft by many Republican voters. This report, however, is forthright about the impact of large scale immigration on lower skilled domestic workers.

Read the rest of this piece at Aaron Renn Substack.

Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker and writer on a mission to help America's cities and people thrive and find real success in the 21st century. He focuses on urban, economic development and infrastructure policy in the greater American Midwest. He also regularly contributes to and is cited by national and global media outlets, and his work has appeared in many publications, including the The Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.