Industriousness – Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray
Premessa: studiamo i bamboccioni d’America immaginando il paese come una città divisa in due quartieri: Belmont – dove abitano i ricchi – e Fishtown – dove abitano i poveri.
Tesi: il bamboccione esiste, vive a Fishtown ed è tale perché non si sposa.
In which evidence is presented that industriousness has declined among all white males, but mostly among Fishtown males.
EUROPEANS HAVE BEEN disdainful of Americans’ enthusiasm for work. “Americans live to work,” they say, “while Europeans work to live.” Many Americans have agreed, me among them, and felt sorry for Europeans. Yes, you can overdo it. There is more to life than work, and a life without ample space for family and friends is incomplete. But this much should not be controversial: Vocation—one’s calling in life—plays a large role in defining the meaning of that life.
Vocation—one’s calling in life—plays a large role in defining the meaning of that life. For some, the nurturing of children is the vocation.
Industriousness is a resource for living a fulfilling human life instead of a life that is merely entertaining.
Note:IL TUNNEL DEL DIVERTIMENTO
What Whites Said About Work
Among prime-age whites, the most popular first choice was always work that “gives a feeling of accomplishment,” getting an average of 58 percent of the votes in each decade. The two least-chosen first choices were always short work hours (averaging 4 percent) and no danger of being fired (6 percent).
In 2006, the GSS resurrected the question, and the results were startling. The 58 percent that had always voted first place to work that “gives a feeling of accomplishment” was down to 43 percent. First-place votes for short working hours more than doubled to 9 percent. “No danger of being fired” doubled to 12 percent, with another 13 percent ranking it in second place.
This is not the way Tocqueville or Grund described the American attitude toward work. In fact, the responses in 2006 looked downright European.
What Whites Did About Work: Men
Until recently, healthy men in the prime of life who did not work were scorned as bums. Even when the man was jobless through no fault of his own, America’s deeply rooted stigma against idleness
Note:LO STIGMA DELLA PIGRIZIA
The Unbelievable Rise in Physical Disability
The percentage of workers who actually are physically or emotionally unable to work for reasons beyond their control has necessarily gone down since 1960. Medical care now cures or alleviates many ailments that would have prevented a person from working in 1960. Technology has produced compensations for physical handicaps
Yet the percentage of people qualifying for federal disability benefits because they are unable to work rose from 0.7 percent of the size of the labor force in 1960 to 5.3 percent in 2010.
This rising trendline is not produced by changes in the legal definition of physical disability or the pool of people who qualify for benefits. Both have been tweaked but not substantially changed since 1960.
Note:DEFINIZIONE DI DISABILITÁ
Labor Force Participation More evidence for the weakening of the work ethic among males comes from the data on labor force participation—the
Labor Force Participation
When the average labor force participation rate in 1960–64 is compared with the rate from 2004 through 2008 (before the recession began), as shown in Figure 9.2, white male labor-force participation fell across the entire age range.1
Note:CALO PARTECIPAZIONE MASCHILE
Whatever that reason may have been, it affected men with low education much more than men with high education.
Note:COLPA DEI MENO ISTRUITI
Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Fishtown men did a little better than the average person who was looking for work. That changed in the 1980s. For the most recent two decades, Fishtown men have done worse than the average person looking for work, and the overall trend has been up.
Note:LA DISOCCUPAZIONE COLPISCE FISHTOWN OGGI PIÙ DI IERI
Hours of Work
As a group, prime-age white males continued to work long hours throughout the half century, averaging around forty-five hours per week throughout.7 But a growing minority of them weren’t working a forty-hour week, as shown in Figure 9.5. The increase in less-than-full-time work in Fishtown is notable, doubling from 10 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 2008. Since the rise continued throughout the hottest boom years of the 1990s, it is difficult to attribute the rise to an ailing economy in which men couldn’t find as many hours of work as they wanted.
Note:UNA CRESCENTE MINORANZA CHE LAVORA SEMPRE MENO
Despite the other indications of decay, the proportion of Fishtown men who worked long hours was still 23 percent in 2008, exactly what it had been in 1960, and 5 percentage points higher than the proportion of men in the bottom quartile who had worked more than forty-eight hours in 1960.
Note:QUI FISHTOWN LIMITA I DANNI
Meanwhile, Belmont left Fishtown in the dust.8 By the end of the 1980s, almost half of Belmont men reported that they worked more than forty-eight hours in the preceding week. The percentage of hardworking Belmont men began to slack off in the 2000s, drifting down to 40 percent by 2008.
Note:È BELMNT CHE DECOLLA: RICCHI E LAVORATORI
“It’s the Labor Market’s Fault”
In one respect, the labor market did indeed get worse for Fishtown men: pay. Recall Figure 2.1 at the beginning of the book, showing stagnant incomes for people below the 50th income percentile. High-paying unionized jobs have become scarce and real wages for all kinds of blue-collar jobs have been stagnant or falling since the 1970s.
Note:PAGA STAGNANTE A FISHTOWN
Insofar as men need to work to survive—an important proviso—falling hourly income does not discourage work.
Note:MA LA PAGA NON SPIEGA LE MENO ORE
So far, I have put the scenario in terms of 2009 wages. What about all the previous years when dropout from the labor force was rising in Fishtown but jobs were plentiful? The last twenty-six years we are examining coincided with one of the longest employment booms in American history,
Note:TREND CONFERMATI ANCHE NEL BOOM 80-00
Economists Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst gave us another kind of look inside that black box with their analysis of American time-use surveys from 1965 through 2005. “Time-use surveys” ask respondents what they did on the previous day, separated into fifteen-minute increments… Aguiar and Hurst document what they call an increase in “leisure” that primarily affected men with low education…. Aguiar and Hurst write, “men who had not completed high school increased their leisure time by eight hours per week, while men who had completed college decreased their leisure time by six hours per week.”…
Note:BLACK BOX: CHE FA CHI NON LAVORA E NON STUDIA?
To sum up: There is no evidence that men without jobs in the 2000s before the 2008 recession hit were trying hard to find work but failing. It was undoubtedly true of some, but not true of the average jobless man. The simpler explanation is that white males of the 2000s were less industrious than they had been twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago, and that the decay in industriousness occurred overwhelmingly in Fishtown.
Note:RIASSUNTO: SIAMO PIÙ PIGRI. SPECIE A FISHTOWON
“It’s Because They Didn’t Marry”
Men with high earnings are more likely to get married and less likely to get divorced.15 But there’s another possibility: Married men become more productive after they are married because they are married. Economist Gary Becker predicted this outcome in A Treatise on the Family because of the advantages of role specialization in marriage.16 George Gilder predicted it even earlier, in Sexual Suicide, through a more inflammatory argument: Unmarried males arriving at adulthood are barbarians who are then civilized by women through marriage. The inflammatory part was that Gilder saw disaster looming as women stopped performing this function, a position derided as the worst kind of patriarchal sexism.17 But, put in less vivid language, the argument is neither implausible nor inflammatory: The responsibilities of marriage induce young men to settle down, focus, and get to work.
Note:MATRIMONIO E SUCCESSO… NESSI
The puzzling thing about the marriage premium (if you do not agree with either Becker’s or Gilder’s argument) is that it cannot be a simple case of women choosing to marry men who are already more productive—the marriage premium occurs after the wedding vows have been taken.
it something about being married that produces the effect, or is the marriage premium the result of women seeing potential in men that they are going to fulfill, even if they haven’t already done so while they are single?
Note:ORIGINE DEL MP
Put plainly, single prime-age males are much less industrious than married ones. Both the decline in marriage and the increased detachment from the labor force in Fishtown cannot be understood without knowing that the interaction exists.
Note:I PIGRI SINGLE DI FISHTOWN: SI SPOSANO MENO NON CERCANO LAVORO SONO DISOCCUPATI E LAVORANO MENO ORE
The meaning of all this is that the labor force problems that grew in Fishtown from 1960 to 2010 are intimately connected with the increase in the number of unmarried men in Fishtown. The balance of the literature suggests that the causal arrow for the marriage premium goes mostly from marriage to labor force behavior—in other words, George Gilder was probably mostly right.
Note:AL CENTRO IL MATRIMONIO
What Whites Did About Work: Women
Detecting changes in industriousness among American women is impossible unless you assume that a woman working at a paid job is more industrious than a full-time mother, which is not an assumption that I am willing to make.
Note:LE DONNE LAVORANO DI PIÙ? IMPOSSIBILE RISPONDERE
America experienced a social and economic revolution from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. The percentage of white women in the labor force rose from 40 percent in 1960 to 74 percent by 1995.
Note:IN MASSA AL LAVORO
Who Joined the Revolution and When?
The short story is that married women in Belmont and Fishtown behaved similarly, starting out within 6 percentage points of each other in 1960 and ending up within 7 percentage points of each other in 2008. Married women in both neighborhoods roughly doubled their labor force participation.
Note:DONNE DI BELMONT E FISHTOWN
Women Working Full Time
Women with jobs have never worked as many hours as men.22 The demands of child care are a major reason for the lower hours—women with children under age 5 worked an average of thirty-three hours… Even women with no children of any age worked an average of forty hours in the week preceding the CPS interview, compared to the male average of forty-five….
Note:LE DONNE CHE LAVORANO LAVORANO MENO ORE DEGLI UOMINI
For women working more than forty-eight hours, the pattern looked almost exactly the same as the one for men: increases for Belmont, flattening in the 1990s and then dropping slightly in the 2000s, with a nearly flat trendline for Fishtown.
Note:A BELMONT SI LAVORA COMUNQUE DI PIÙ ANCHE TRA LE DONNE
Adding Up the Pieces
the graph adds up the separate divergences among both men and women on labor force participation, unemployment, and hours worked. It portrays a divergence between Belmont and Fishtown nearly as great in aggregate as the change in marriage.