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workforce participation

I'm not arguing that there isn't something strange about the plummeting workforce participation rates but I do think there are some structural things going on that are worth thinking about.


Let's take your "normal" two income family with kids. When the great recession hit, one lost a job or the terms of that job became considerably less generous. The alternative job also pays less and is 40 miles away (with $4 gas). All the sudden the whole money cycling game of paying for child care, the commute, lunches and clothes (and higher marginal taxes) is brought into question and one of the couple decides it is perfectly rational to just stay home and work at saving a buck.


However, even though they were just spinning dollars those dollars contributed to GDP and created other jobs in childcare, the auto industry, the oil industry etc.


Those are poor examples but I do think there are structural changes being triggered that aren't going to go away- we'd probably reached something near peak dollar spinning and probably aren't going back there any time soon. There were limts to how many 3000 sf houses were going to be built for the average 2.75 person households; probably a limit to how many big box stores and chain restaurants the economy could support.

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My point being

that I really didn't make, was that the present economic circumstances (which no politician is going to fix quickly) needs to be viewed as much  a matter that the whole project that we embarked on roughly 1980s-2008 was FUBARed as much as the present is.

Re: My point being

Prescisely.  And facing up to or dealing with that is a big, big non-starter for the "40 something". "gen Xers".  Yeah, us booomers are going t be a drag on the coffers.  And the kids are going to have a tough time getting started and established.  But the aforementioned?  They want the party to run into the morning....**bleep** the cost.

Re: workforce participation

I don't doubt its some if that. I know people dropping $1k a month just on day care. Some of it too I think are people late in their career that find themselves out of work, they'll never again be employed in that field.

Re: workforce participation

Yes, and of course the surge in disability claims speaks to that. And I suspect that a sizable number of folks 55+ are marginally disabled even if they previously worked with that disability.


Unfortunately for me, being dispositionally disabled doesn't qualify.

Re: workforce participation

Not to forget the paradox that comes to the moralists on working Moms.  With one breath screaming "Get a job!" and the with next "The Mother should stay in the home!".

Senior Contributor

Re: workforce participation

You mean the front and center attacks on Ann Romney for being a stay at home mom?  At the end of the day, this could be good for the U.S.  It might be a drag on the GDP etc., but the country could be all the better from it.  You don't have to browse through many statistics to see that children raised with a stay at home parent are the better for it.  When one factors in the cost of child care plus the additional cost of another vehicle, fuel, insurance, etc.; in a lot of cases these additional costs offset what one parent makes. 


I can't speak for all areas, but here we see the hispanics doing things we did decades ago.  They get by on smaller homes.  The women stay home and take care of the kids.  Typically, the family owns just one vehicle.  They all seem quite happy with the arrangement.  Consumerism seems to be what changed most Americans or as I like to call it keeping up with the Jones's.  Has anyone ever really wondered why a family of four needs a 3000 sq. feet home with a full furnished basement?  Has anyone ever wondered why a family of four needs a suburban getting 12-15 mpg when a sedan capable of 30+ mpg would accomplish the same job?