Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unemployment - Cause and Effect

David Brooks shares another version of his "conservatives need to hug more" view of society. An alternative description, "simplistic answers to difficult problems." This line caught my eye:
Men who are unemployed for a significant amount of time are more likely to drink more, abuse their children more and suffer debilitating blows to their identity. Unemployed men are not exactly the most eligible mates. So in areas of high unemployment, marriage rates can crumble — while childbearing rates out of wedlock do not.
While respecting the fact that prolonged unemployment can create a lot of stress, and can contribute to substance abuse and alcoholism, I suspect that on the first point Brooks is confusing cause and effect. That is, men who are abusive alcoholics, possibly also with a poor sense of their own identities, have trouble landing jobs. The less functional they are as human beings, the longer it takes them to find employment.

His second point isn't much different. Unemployed men and women who, over the long-term, stay in areas of high unemployment are not likely to be hot prospects for the employment market. A lot of the men who stay in dysfunctional communities without either jobs or getting married are a cause of the community's dysfunction, not a symptom.

Since I'm already writing about the editorial, let's look at Brooks' number one solution....
First, we need to redefine masculinity, creating an image that encourages teenage boys to stay in school and older men to pursue service jobs.
I am not sure how much of the problem with dropping out of high school lies in a notion that "Lurnings fer gurls". But around here, I see a lot of older men working service jobs. I would venture that in the areas where Walmart gets thousands of applications for a single entry level job, no small number of the applicants are older men. Where is Brooks getting the idea that older men are spurning work in the service industry, as opposed to losing out on a relatively low number of jobs to other applicants?

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