The Disaster of Obamanomics, In Two Charts [Updated with more charts from Joe]

Apologists for the Obama administration sometimes argue that the nation’s declining rate of labor force participation is largely a function of baby boomers retiring from the labor force. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This chart, prepared by the Senate Budget Committee, pretty much says it all. An unprecedented number of men–one in six–between the ages of 25 and 54, what should be their prime earning years, are either unemployed or out of the work force entirely. One in eight, the highest proportion since record-keeping began in 1955, are out of the labor force:


Another 2.9 million men in the 25-54 age group haven’t given up–they are still in the labor force–but are currently unemployed. There are 61.1 million men in the U.S. between 25 and 54, and currently, 10.2 million of them are not working. At all. This is 2.7 million more non-working men than in 2007, before the recession and the Obama non-recovery began:


At some point, we will have a better government and better economic policies. But the damage done to a generation of American men (and women too, of course) will not easily be undone. Those who missed a chunk of what should have been their most productive years, or departed the labor force entirely, will suffer from Obamanomics for the rest of their lives. The damage being done by our current, inept economic policies is literally incalculable.


I wrote a brief analysis on this and other topics related to the politics of youth late last spring with the guidance of Stanford economist John B. Taylor. The BLS does not readily report labor force participation by age cohort, but with a little work the official numbers can be found.

Here is the labor force participation rate by age cohort since the recession in 2008.

Malchow_labor force participation by age

This severely understates the true depths of young Americans’ reaction to their new environment. The government does not consider labor force participation by age to be a headline statistic, so the data is rarely seen. But that does not mean that it is not available. We can see what is going on by cutting labor force participation by age cohort and plotting the series, indexing to January 2007, before the recession began in earnest. The picture is rather grim.

This admittedly brief time series shows a dramatic and sustained downturn in labor force participation among 18-24 year olds, beginning in earnest in January 2009. At the same time, participation by the 55 and older cohort rises more or less steadily. It is difficult to believe that rising college attendance or longer lifespans—major multidecadal trends—could alone account for this result.

Meanwhile, the old are clinging on to their jobs with unexpected force.

And at the same time, young Americans are voting increasingly less, while old Americans are voting increasingly more!

United States Census data show the following:

Malchow_voter turnout by age cohort

It might be more relevant to view redistribution, the chief object of modern government, from the perspective of young and old. From taxation to student debt to the national debt, 21st century American life increasingly involves moving capital from the young to the old. Youth are disengaging from politics at a fast clip, as the retired and retiring gain greater potency. Policies that imply the moral superiority of stasis and comfort, as opposed to growth and dynamism, are becoming the norm. The result could be a flaccidity of youthful energy that the United States has never suffered in its history.

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