What are “prime age men” who aren’t in the labor force doing with their time ?

Yesterday, we looked at the falling labor force participation rate (LFPR) among so-called prime age males … aged 24 to 54 … a range that outboards most students and retirees.

About 10 million men fall into that category – unemployed but not looking for work.

One hypothesis is that the LFPR  among prime age males has dropped because – as women have entered the workforce – the men have stayed home to care for family members and do household chores.

According to the Fed’s latest American Time Use Survey, there’s some evidence to support that hypothesis.

In fact, “non-participating prime-age men” spend about 1/2 hour per day more on “household activities & services” than do prime age males who are in the labor force.




But, that’s only a small  part of the story ….


While the non-participating prime-age males spend 1/2 hour more per day than their working counterparts on housekeeping chores  … they spend over 5.5 hours per day watching TV … and another 2.3 hours per day on “socializing, relaxing, leisure” activities.



According to a 2016 Presidential Report on The Long-term Decline in Prime-age Male Labor Force Participation:

Taken together with existing literature on the subject, the time use patterns suggest that substitution of husband’s time for wife’s time within the household does not appear to be the key to understanding recent trends in labor force participation among prime-age men.

The data also suggest that men are not choosing to leave the labor force to invest in their skills and better their future labor market opportunities.

Prime-age men not in the labor force spent only 17 minutes more per day on educational activities than prime-age men overall.

The largest difference in how men in and out of the labor force spend their time is in time spent on leisure activities — socializing, relaxing and leisure, with nonparticipating men spending almost twice as much time on these activities than those prime-age men overall, and more than twice as much time watching television.

Together, these patterns suggest that men are, on average, not dropping out of the labor force to specialize in home production or to invest in skills to improve their future labor market opportunities.


Technical note: these non-participating males are not counted in the unemployment rate since they aren’t in the labor force.

More to come on the topic …



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