Share of U.S. Born Men in the Labor Force Declined Dramatically Since the 1960s

The following study is from the Center for Immigration Studies that looks at the decades-long decline in labor force participation among the U.S. born men and women and its implications for immigration policy.

Working-Age, but Not Working in California

Share of U.S.-born men in the labor force declined dramatically since the 1960s

Washington, D.C. (August 31, 2023) – A new analysis of government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows the dramatic decline in the labor force participation of working-age U.S.-born men over the past six decades nationally and in California, particularly for men without a bachelor’s degree. One of the arguments for allowing in so many immigrants is that the low unemployment rate means that no potential workers are available. But this ignores the massive increase in the number of working-age (16 to 64) people not in the labor force in states like California who do not show up as unemployed because they are not actively looking for work.

“There is consensus that the enormous decline in labor force participation in states like California is contributing to serious problems such as social isolation, drug addiction, and crime,” said Steven Camarota, the Center’s Director of Research and lead author of the report. “It seems very unlikely we will ever address this issue if immigration remains high and businesses can simply turn to immigrant workers to fill jobs.”

Among the Findings:

  • The labor force participation rate of working-age (16 to 64) U.S.-born men in California fell from 91 percent in 1960 to 82 percent by 2000 and was just 75 percent in April of this year.
  • Among U.S.-born women (16 to 64) in California, 68 percent were in the labor force in April 2023, down some from the 70 percent in 2000. The labor force participation of U.S.-born women California was traditionally much lower than men’s, but increased dramatically after 1960, peaking in 2000 and remaining roughly the same since.
  • Research shows the fall-off in labor force participation is associated with profound social problems such as overdose deaths, crime, suicide, and welfare dependency — to say nothing of the fiscal and economic damage.
  • At the same time that the labor force participation rate of the U.S.-born was falling, the immigrant share of the overall labor force in the state tripled from 11 percent in 1960 to 34 percent in 2023.
  • Working-age immigrant men in California have not experienced the same decline in their labor force participation, though the rate did decline from 91 percent to 87 percent between 1960 and 2000, it has changed little since 2000.

Among Men Without a Bachelor’s Degree:

  • The participation rate of U.S.-born men (16 to 64) in California without a bachelor’s fell from 90 percent in 1960, to 78 percent in 2000, to just 68 percent in 2023.
  • The participation rate of “prime age” (25 to 54) U.S.-born men in the state without a bachelor’s declined from 97 percent in 1960, to 89 percent in 2000, to just 81 percent in 2023.
  • While the overall participation rate of U.S.-born women (16 to 64) overall has changed relatively little since 2000 in California, the rate for U.S.-born women without a bachelor’s declined significantly from 67 percent in 2000 to 60 percent by 2023.


©2023. Center for Immigration Studies. All rights reserved.

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