Eberstadt, Furman, and Summers Discuss ‘Men without Work’ at JFK Jr. Forum

April 28, 2017


The two generation decline of work for American men was the focus of discussion on Wednesday evening (April 26) at the JFK Jr. Forum. Charles W. Eliot University Professor Lawrence H. Summers led the discussion featuring Men Without Work author Nicholas Eberstadt and Jason Furman, recently named Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and former Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). 

The New York Times called Eberstadt’s book “an unsettling portrait not just of male unemployment, but also of lives deeply alienated from civil society.” Furman, in his role at CEA, did extensive research and analysis of how the share of American men between the ages of 25 and 54, or “prime-age men,” in the labor force has been declining for more than sixty years. Furman’s research found that joblessness is linked to worse economic prospects in the future, lower overall well-being and happiness, and higher mortality, as well as negative consequences for families and communities. “Self-esteem and dignity depend on having a job,” Furman said at the event.  

Summers noted the fraction of men working in United States is much lower than in Western Europe. And Eberstadt pointed out that “75% of men who lack a high school degree claim some type of disability insurance.” 

Furman discussed the institutional barriers that contribute to these phenomena, along with labor force supply and demand challenges. “People get more stuck in a labor market with less fluidity,” he said.

The Forum discussion also focused on solutions. Furman pointed out the need for more education and criminal justice reform and also suggested infrastructure investments and expanding subsidies for work might be helpful. The event was co-hosted by the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government and the Institute of Politics

Larry Summers

Lawrence Summers, Weil Director, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government, and Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Jason Furman

Jason Furman, Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School 


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