UC Davis Economist Gets Grant to Research Men’s Falling Participation in U.S. Labor Force

Photo of dejected man sitting on curb, head in hand
The rise of men who don't work in the U.S. has long puzzled economists. UC Davis Professor Ann Huff Stevens will take a new approach to study the trend. (Creative Commons/Pabak Sarkar)

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth announced today that it will give a research grant to UC Davis economics professor Ann Huff Stevens to study the long-term decline of men’s employment in the United States.

portrait photo of UC Davis expert on labor, job loss and poverty
Ann Huff Stevens

Stevens, deputy director of the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, is one of 24 researchers at universities across the country—12 of them faculty members and 12 doctoral students—to receive 2018 grants from the nonprofit Equitable Growth.

“Equitable Growth is excited to support another round of scholars who are deepening our understanding of how economic inequality affects overall economic well-being and how we can promote more equitable growth,” Heather Boushey, the organization’s executive director and chief economist, said in a prepared statement.

A decline in U.S. men who are employed or actively seeking work has puzzled economics for many years. The labor force participation rate for men in their prime working age, from 25 to 54, has declined from a peak of about 98 percent in 1954 to 88.4 percent in 2016, according to Equitable Growth.

A unique look at individuals men over time

Most research to date on the trend has used cross-sectional data. Stevens will use, among other techniques, longitudinal analysis of individuals’ employment trajectories.

“By looking at the wages of the sometimes non-employed, this project will yield a better answer to the question of how much of the reduction in prime-age employment over recent decades can be explained by declining wages,” she says in an abstract for her grant proposal.

Her project, which received a $60,000 grant, is titled, “Understanding men’s nonemployment using longitudinal data: Wage opportunities, employment dynamics, and long-term effects.”

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science