_The Atlantic_: The New Jobless Era in America


My own advice is to "choose the company you keep" and not read the negative news about the job market. But I found this article linked on David Brooks' NYTimes article, began reading it, and had to finish it, bleak as it is.

My conclusion is that the standard of living is falling in the United States of America. There can be no worse indictment of the leadership of the previous generation than that. Bad public policy has, and will, ravage peoples' lives.

Strong evidence suggests that people who don’t find solid roots in the job market within a year or two have a particularly hard time righting themselves. In part, that’s because many of them become different—and damaged—people. Krysia Mossakowski, a sociologist at the University of Miami, has found that in young adults, long bouts of unemployment provoke long-lasting changes in behavior and mental health. “Some people say, ‘Oh, well, they’re young, they’re in and out of the workforce, so unemployment shouldn’t matter much psychologically,’” Mossakowski told me. “But that isn’t true.”
"Humiliation" is the word, and it is unavoidable. The US does not have an ascetic tradition. Our wealth has been based on a maniacal emphasis on work, and now the country cannot provide its people with work.
I asked him what he foresaw for his working life. “As far as my job position,” he said, “I really don’t know what I want to do yet. I’m not sure.” When he was little, he wanted to be a mechanic, and he did enjoy the machine trade. But now there was hardly any work to be had, and what there was paid about the same as Walmart. “I don’t think there’s any way that you can have a job that you can think you can retire off of,” he said. “I think everyone’s going to have to transfer to another job.” He said the only future he could really imagine for himself now was just moving from job to job, with no career to speak of. “That’s what I think,” he said. “I don’t want to.”

This is my view of things -- "no career to speak of" -- because I foresee job stability getting worse and worse as I age. But for me, that's not so bad, because I'm smart enough to create value. But what would things be like if I was not educated? My sympathies well up for the uneducated men of my generation forced into indignities at employers like Wal-Mart. Adjunct hell is one thing, but someone's listening (or a few people); it's kind of a pulpit.

Enough money to retire? Bah! The thought is ludicrous. My generation may never stop working.

Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, in the U.K., and a pioneer in the field of happiness studies, says no other circumstance produces a larger decline in mental health and well-being than being involuntarily out of work for six months or more. It is the worst thing that can happen, he says, equivalent to the death of a spouse, and “a kind of bereavement” in its own right. Only a small fraction of the decline can be tied directly to losing a paycheck, Oswald says; most of it appears to be the result of a tarnished identity and a loss of self-worth. Unemployment leaves psychological scars that remain even after work is found again....

Nothing worse than feeling one does not contribute something of value.

Many working women struggle with the idea of partners who aren’t breadwinners. “We’ve got this image of Archie Bunker sitting at home, grumbling and acting out,” says Kathryn Edin, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and an expert on family life. “And that does happen. But you also have women in whole communities thinking, ‘This guy’s nothing.’” Edin’s research in low-income communities shows, for instance, that most working women whose partner stayed home to watch the kids—while very happy with the quality of child care their children’s father provided—were dissatisfied with their relationship overall. “These relationships were often filled with conflict,” Edin told me.


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