America's Disappearing Workforce
As Krueger reports, last year, Italy was the only OECD country which had a lower participation rate of prime age men than the United States. One of the reasons posited by the research is the opioid crisis currently ravaging the country. Labor force participation rates have fallen more in areas where more opioid pain medication is prescribed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was three times higher than it was in 1999.
As noted in the paper, while the direction of causality is not clear, a 2017 report by David Mericle entitled 'The Opioid Epidemic and the U.S. Economy' states that “the opioid epidemic is intertwined with the story of declining prime-age participation, especially for men, and this reinforces our doubts about a rebound in the participation rate.”.
This chart shows the percentage point change in U.S. labor force participation rates from 1997 to 2017, by age & gender.