Declines in manufacturing employment are shaping the structure of the American family.
In many small towns across the country, there aren’t very many good jobs these days. Once there were factories that employed millions and paid decent wages. Today, young men are scraping by working at local bars or in lower-paid temp jobs. Many of these men are single, and new research suggests that those two things—their poor economic status and their singleness—are not unrelated.
It’s no wonder, then, that the changes wrought by the disappearance of manufacturing jobs helped elevate the platform of Donald Trump, who won 67 percent of white workers without a college degree. Their malcontent comes not just from their economic struggles, but from the dramatic changes to their personal lives that the decline of manufacturing have created.
A new study by the economists David Autor of MIT, Gordon Hanson of the University of California at San Diego, and David Dorn of the University of Zurich, provides evidence that their economic struggles are directly responsible for many of their personal ones. The study finds that, as men’s economic prospects decline, they marry less frequently. Once, men had good earnings, especially when compared with women. But now these men don’t earn much more than women do, and so fewer people are getting married, and more children are being born out of wedlock. Children are much more likely to grow up in poverty in households headed by single mothers.
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