Rhoads on Unemployed Men
One issue that I didn’t have room to cover in “A Wide-Ranging Book for Non-Economists and Economists,” Regulation, Spring 2022, my review of Steven E. Rhoads’s excellent book The Economist’s View of the World, is the issue of unemployed men.
Rhoads points out that various government welfare programs discourage work by men. He also adds another factor:
But, for most jobless men, it is help from parents, grandparents, partners, and friends that provides the most significant income enabling them to be listless about seeking employment. (p. 122)
Rhoads doesn’t give evidence to back this assertion but, given how careful he is with data in the rest of the book, I assume that he has evidence to back this claim. The big surprise for me in that sentence is “most.” I had no idea that the personal voluntary gifts from friends and loved ones were so substantial.
That puts a new light on the issue. It makes sense to oppose transfer programs that take money from some and give to others in ways that discourage employment. It also makes sense for people who want the men in their lives to have jobs not to keep giving them money. But one is an issue of government policy; the second is an issue of personal policy. To the extent the unemployment of jobless men comes about as a result of voluntary contributions, I worry less. Not that I don’t worry, but I worry less. The reason is two-fold: (1) people aren’t being coerced to help them, or, more exactly, that’s not the main source of funds, and (2) loved ones who want men in their lives to have jobs can decide on their own to help them less or to make their help conditional on the man getting a job.