Heartbreak in the Heartland
By Amy Willis
Despite low official unemployment rates, this week’s EconTalk guest, economist Edward Glaeser, argues that joblessness is “the great American domestic crisis of the 21st century.” What accounts for this seemingly unprecedented economic and social crisis? And what’s different about changing patterns of employment today? We don’t bemoan the loss of blacksmiths, but the loss of manufacturing and mining jobs in America’s heartland seems much more tragic. Host Russ Roberts and Glaeser explore the possible causes and discuss potential responses in this fascinating episode.
As usual, now we’d like to get your reaction. Consider responding to one of our prompts in the comments, or pose a question of your own. We love to hear from you!
1. What’s the distinction between unemployment and joblessness, and why does Glaeser put so much emphasis on it?
2. In discussing possible causes of this epidemic of joblessness, Glaeser suggests there may be both (labor) supply and demand explanations. What are some of these he suggests? (As always, bonus points if you can graph it!) Which do you find to be the most persuasive explanations, and why?
3. Why do people in cities tend to earn more than people in rural areas? And given this trend, why are fewer people moving to cities today? Is this phenomenon more economic or cultural in nature? Explain.
4. How does Glaeser think the opioid crisis affects joblessness?
5. Roberts and Glaeser ruminate on possible responses to alleviate the crisis of joblessness. Which of their suggestions do you find most plausible, and why? Are there any additional suggestions you can offer?