Friday, September 23, 2016

Do long-term unemployed job seekers deserve what happens to them?

Do long-term unemployed job seekers deserve any of the adverse economic consequences which they may receive?
For example, do they deserve bankruptcy, homelessness and so on?

Let's set aside the philosophical question of deserving. I would ask instead: is what happens to them the consequence of their actions? My answer is no.

Long-term unemployment is defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as 27 weeks (a bit more than 6 months) out of work involuntarily.
Who are these people? One big group is workers over 55, known as "older workers"; although it is illegal to discriminate against anyone over 40, the market place is not kind to older workers as a rule. They are more expensive to hire because they know the score and have some experience. They are not blank slates and cannot be molded to do whatever an employer wants. And other reasons.

Another large group is much younger people with little training or skills. You might say they should have stayed in school or gone to college, but in reality the deal you're dealt has a lot more to do with what I jokingly call the family you chose to be born in. If you were born poor in the United States, on average, only your children's children's children's children have a chance of becoming rich. That has been studied and demonstrated.

Lastly, there is a well-known labor market bias against LTUs: employers wonder why no one hired someone who has been looking for a job for six months or more. "Is there something they knew about this person that I am not seeing?" (Many stay unemployed as long as two years.)

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions in italics and their subtexts are not mine.

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