Pundits often discuss unemployment data as a measure of economic growth. But the Social Capital Project, an effort of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, is looking at those numbers more deeply to gain deeper insight into the social lives of Americans.

Who are the prime-age men who are neither working nor looking for work? Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner explains further the affliction of these “idle” men:

What sort of men are neither working nor seeking work? The study divvied them up into five categories: The retired, the homemakers, and the students are three categories. The two largest groups, however, are the disabled, and finally a group that is none of the above — not in school, not retired, not charged with raising kids, and not disabled. The study just calls them “other.”

The “other” and the disabled add up to about 70 percent of all the “inactive” Americans. That’s about 8 percent of the country, or about 1 in 12. These folks aren’t doing well, by all sorts of measures that you may not have guessed.

One-third of the disabled inactive men never graduated high school, for instance, compared to 11 percent of employed people. Drug use is much higher among the inactive. So is poverty.

Here’s a less obvious and more important set of numbers: The inactive are twice as likely as the employed to say they don’t get invited to events with others. They are less likely to say they have friends they could call on to help them move.

The inactive are far more likely to be divorced than are the employed. Specifically, the divorce rate among disabled men is 38 percent, and among the “others” is 31 percent, compared to 22 percent among the employed. …

Idleness can be understood not just as a vice, but as an affliction.

The men out of the labor force are disproportionately unmarried. They’re alienated from civil society, as the new data reaffirms. Their absence from the workforce is one more instance of that alienation. It’s another way in which these men are left standing alone, without the human connections we all need.

Without work, without a wife, without kids, these men lack purpose. They can easily see themselves as useless.

Read more at the Washington Examiner.

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