The Declining Labor Market Prospects of Less-Educated Men

48 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2019 Last revised: 21 Nov 2021

See all articles by Ariel Binder

Ariel Binder

U.S. Census Bureau

John Bound

University of Michigan; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2019


Over the last half century, U.S. wage growth stagnated, wage inequality rose, and the labor-force participation rate of prime-age men steadily declined. In this article, we examine these labor market trends, focusing on outcomes for males without a college education. Though wages and participation have fallen in tandem for this population, we argue that the canonical neo-classical framework, which postulates a labor demand curve shifting inward across a stable labor supply curve, does not reasonably explain the data. Alternatives we discuss include adjustment frictions associated with labor demand shocks and effects of the changing marriage market—that is, the fact that fewer less-educated men are forming their own stable families—on male labor supply incentives.Our observations lead us to be skeptical of attempts to attribute the secular decline in male labor-force participation to a series of separately-acting causal factors. We argue that the correct interpretation probably involves complicated feedback between falling labor demand and other factors which have disproportionately affected men without a college education.

Suggested Citation

Binder, Ariel and Bound, John, The Declining Labor Market Prospects of Less-Educated Men (February 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25577, Available at SSRN:

Ariel Binder (Contact Author)

U.S. Census Bureau ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
United States

John Bound

University of Michigan ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
313-998-7149 (Phone)
313-998-7415 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics