Monday, July 10, 2017

Video Games Probably Not the Reason You Don't Have a Job

Let's talk about that study recently released talking about men and video games. Specifically, the study suggests that the decrease of young men in the labor market is due to good video games. The study published to the National Bureau of Economic Research is getting a lot of air time. You can view the original paper here which uses pre-existing government statistics on the state of the economy.

While games may be a factor in why fewer young men are working, they are not the primary reason. And that's the main aspect that the study largely ignores - focusing more on leisurely activities and not on market trends that caused a spike in unemployment, low job growth, and increased income inequality.

Ask anyone who attempted to find a job between 2006 to, well, now, can tell you that the market has changed since the housing bubble burst. It was teetering in 2006 and went into a tailspin in 2009-2010. This caused a big chain reaction: suppliers for building were shutting down. People were losing their jobs. Insurance companies were laying off people due to the low home-owner rate. Retailers closed down as fewer people were willing to spend money. More young adults were opting to stay home to save money, some opting for community college or skipping college entirely. While the market was going down, costs were rising. This wasn't just the US. Globally there were repercussions.

A lot of stuff went down in the past decade and we're still recovering from it. I myself scaled back on a number of my life plans so I could ensure financial stability should another disaster strike again. Those of us in the 21-35 range have fewer credit cards - we saw our family struggle with debt during the recession and we did not want to repeat it.

Video games were an inexpensive luxury at a time when options were expensive. Theater ticket prices and music were going up. Spending $100 for 2 hours at the movie for a family of 4 seems like a waste when you can spend $39-$59 on a video game that will entertain for months. They provided fun and comfort while the world crumbled around us. But holding young men back from getting work? Let's take a look at some stats!

From 2006 to 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate went from 4.4% to 10%. In general, young adults experience the highest rate of unemployment among all age groups. When you have an unemployment rate jump up to 10%, if you were 21-35 your chances of landing a job were drastically reduced. You were now fighting for a fast food position alongside the 35-65 group who were recently laid off and have more experience. Having a college degree was no longer a guarantee that you'd land a job. Even today the degree is more expensive then what it's worth for a number of U.S. employers.

Since 2010, the employment rate for young adults has increased to 66.2%, from 61.3% during the recession. Why? Because more jobs are available. It really is as simple as that. Our unemployment rate is steadily dropping back down to that 4.4% marker, and that can only happen when more jobs are on the market. Video games haven't gone down in quality or content. They are better and more time intensive, if anything. But without jobs to go after, the unemployment rate and focus on playing games will increase.

So let's slow down, look at the stats, and focus on the issues affecting young men with today's job market. We can blame video games, but it's hiding the reality of the social and economic issues the country is facing. Unless you are intentionally ignoring all life responsibilities to play video games, there's more at work then "leisurely activities" taking up your free time.

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