FMC Home Link PBS Program LinkFMC Book LinkViewer's Voices LinkInteractivity LinkTeacher's Guide
  Book Intro LinkBook Authors LinkBook Download LinkCredits Link
FMC Logo 1
  < Back to Contents
  Chapter Two:

  Men's Occupations
  Farm Operators
  Employee Fatalities
  Men's Working Lives
  Work Hours
  Daily Housework
  Working Women
  Women at Work: Values
  Women's Occupations
  Minority Professionals
  Labor Unions



FMC Logo 2  


Men's Working Lives

chart link spacer



The proportion of American men who were in the labor force declined.
The labor force participation rate of adult men gradually decreased from 86 percent in 1900 to 75 percent in 1998. The century’s peak labor force participation rate—88 percent—occurred during World War II. 

The decline in labor force participation was most conspicuous for men aged sixty-five and older. Two of every three were working or looking for work in 1900. By 1998, only one of six was so engaged. The decline was steep and steady, and it was well under way before the introduction of Social Security and subsequent expansion of private pension plans. This precipitous decline ended in the late 1980s, but whether this portends an increase in the labor force participation of men aged sixty-five and older was still not clear at the end of the century. 

The withdrawal of younger men from the labor force can be traced to a variety of factors, including the following: (1) increased involvement in full-time higher education; (2) the availability of income support for people with mild disabilities; (3) military and civil service pensions awarded after relatively short service; (4) early retirement from corporate employment; (5) illicit gains in the drug trade and other criminal activities; and (6) a wider distribution of investment income. 

Education, marriage, and race had striking effects on labor force participation rates. Only 7 percent of male college graduates under sixty-five were out of the labor force in 1998, compared with 25 percent of men in the same age group who had not finished high school. Married men of any age were more likely to be in the labor force than single, divorced, or widowed men. Black men had a lower-than- average participation rate, but Hispanic men had a higher-than-average rate.

Chapter 2 chart 5

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series D 29 and D 35; SA 1997, tables 620 and 629; and SA 1999, tables 650 and 657.


<<Previous      Next>>  


PBS Program | Trends of the Century | Viewer's Voices | Interactivity | Teacher's Guide