Princeton Economist: Nearly Half Of Working Age Men Not In The Labor Force Take Opioids Daily

Tyler Durden's picture

Esteemed Princeton professor and former Obama White House economist Alan Krueger is back with yet another prediction about why Americans, particularly men between the ages of 25-54, suddenly no longer have any interest in working.  In his report, entitled "Where Have All The Workers Gone? An Inquiry Into The Decline Of The U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate," Krueger ponders the data below which reveal that the labor force participation rate among men, aged 25-54, started dropping around 1965 and has been steadily declining ever since.

Of course, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with stagnant real wages or soaring entitlements that have provided massive, and increasing, disincentives to work over the past several decades. 

No, after spending months, or maybe even years, running very complicated regressions that your simple mind could never possibly understand, Krueger would like for you to know that it's the growing opioid epidemic that is forcing men to sit on their couches all day rather than look for work.  Here's a summary of his findings from the Brookings Institute:

The increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation (LFP) during that same period.


In “Where have all the workers gone? An inquiry into the decline of the U.S. labor force participation rate” (PDF), Princeton University’s Alan Krueger examines the labor force implications of the opioid epidemic on a local and national level.


Among other findings, the research suggests that:


  • Regional variation in opioid prescription rates across the U.S. is due in large part to differences in medical practices, rather than varying health conditions. Pain medication is more widely used in counties where health care professionals prescribe greater quantities of opioid medication, with a 10 percent increase in opioid prescriptions per capita is associated with a 2 percent increase in the share of individuals who report taking a pain medication on any given day. When accounting for individuals’ disability status, self-reported health, and demographic characteristics, the effect is cut roughly in half, but remains statistically significant.


  • Over the last 15 years, LFP fell more in counties where more opioids were prescribed. Krueger reaches this conclusion by linking 2015 county-level opioid prescription rates to individual level labor force data in 1999-2001 and 2014-16. For more on the relationship between prescription rates and labor force participation rate on the county-level.

Krueger also provided this very helpful map proving that opioid abuse is highly correlated to unemployment.  Of course, it couldn't possibly be the case that opioid abuse is the result of high unemployment and the associated depression that goes along with, the opioid abuse definitely came first.


So, what is Krueger's solution to help reverse the seemingly perpetual decline in labor force participation rates?  If you guessed 'Obamacare' then you're absolutely right...and unfortunately, no, that is not a is the excerpt from page 38 of Krueger's paper:

Third, addressing the decades-long slide in labor force participation by prime age men should be a national priority. This group expresses low levels of SWB and reports finding relatively little meaning in their daily activities. Because nearly half of this group reported being in poor health, it may be possible for expanded health insurance coverage and preventative care under the Affordable Care Act to positively affect the health of prime age men going forward.

And while we would never presume to be smart enough to question the very thorough, impartial research of a Princeton economist, we do wonder whether it's in any way relevant that labor force participation rates seemingly started to decline in 1965... exactly the same time that welfare spending started to surge?


It's probably just a coincidence.

Krueger's full report can be reviewed here:

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No skills, pop pills. 

yogibear's picture

Feeds on itself.

H1Bs, overseas outsourcing and huge student debt grinding down millenials.

The American dream is only for a select few  now.

Wages have stagnated for years now.

SMG's picture

Soma.  Brave New World.   We need a revolution.

greenskeeper carl's picture

So they have no jobs, yet they are able to get their hands on these expensive pills daily? Who the fuck is paying for all this shit??


(rhetorical question, Im well aware of the answer)

The_Juggernaut's picture

I'm not in the labor force.  Where the fuck are my opioids?

bluez's picture

Yeah but remember 90% are victims of alien abduction.

And all the bigfoots pop morphine daily.

You believe every Princeton statistic? How does this professor know who is not working or who is on drugs?

If this is actually real, Li'l Kim has nothing to worry about.

Pinto Currency's picture

The Taliban will shut down Afghan opium production.

Socratic Dog's picture

"Pain medication is more widely used in counties where health care professionals prescribe greater quantities of opioid medication".


No shit, Sherlock.

Handful of Dust's picture

Where can I get in on the act? I have a hard time taking an aspirin. How can these people take this stuff? Where do they get it?

In any case, shouldn't they all be happy after 8 years of Hopey and Changey?

Bigly's picture

I call bullshit on this stat. Rubbish!

doctor10's picture

Beats the snot out of them "taking aim" -which is how the oligarchy sees it all.

Killdo's picture

I was wondering the same thing seeing most dirt-poor homeless sleeping in gutters  in SF injecting what I think is probably heroin

Stuck on Zero's picture

The Author doesn't understand what's really happening. If you want to surf all day instead of working you fake a painful back injury, get fired, go on disability, go see lots of Doctors and get prescribed pain meds, sell the pain meds to make a lot of $$, and surf all day. It's a wonderful cozy relationship between the politicians, pharma, doctors, and the surfer.

SixIsNinE's picture


so that's why so many surfers are finding their surfboards cracked open when flying...

TSA has been looking back and forth ..."what.... we didn't see nothing" ...



- for those who weren't turned ON, back in the day, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love did indeed smuggle special stuff in surf boards...  Read the book, if you can find it.

(pdf's of congressional records come up after Nixon targeted the Laguna boys in the early 70s)


greenskeeper carl's picture

And best of all, no one is negatively affected by this. Except us lowly serfs who pay for it. So, no one important

UselessEater's picture

Have your family watch the series Communism By The Back Door by Dennis Wise. It is important young men and women realize who is conditioning their minds and how they respond to life. It is in short segments, perfect for parental homework!

Bendromeda Strain's picture

I thought it looked interesting until I saw it was the same group that put out the Hitler hagiography Greatest Story Never Told. No thanks.

UselessEater's picture

Your loss. Now go bleat about red and blue. It is working for you!


Children always judge a book by its cover or you might just be a moran!

UselessEater's picture

Oh and KMA, lies are never contained by laws and trials that are a travesty of justice. Truth needs no legal defence pumpkin. Arron Russo (RIP) was more gracious in his comments but jailing an 88yr old granny?

Free Ursula Haverbeck.... yes you! the brave man who cannot possibly watch TGSNT...but you can let an old lady die in jail while rapists walk free.

Good grief. No ice cubes in hell pumpkin.



grasha87's picture

I have a solution to the problem of the monetary system based on debt which cause recessions. It's called the wallark, and is a currency based on Say's law:

peddling-fiction's picture

<double cup full of ice in ya face>

Purple Drank, anyone?

Purple drank is liquid heroin, for those not keen on getting inyected.

The epidemic is bad. Lots of OD's.

americanreality's picture

Cough syrup with codeine is not heroin.  

peddling-fiction's picture

True that. Opiate should have been the word, or codeine.

This concoction has killed lots of people.

Iskiab's picture

This is a dump report, relates opioid use with not working without having the balls to say what's really going on. There's a health problem and at least that's been identified, but more healthcare won't solve the problem.

The problem is people are fat and suffering from malnutrition. DDD used to be rare, it's becoming more common all the time and even showing up in children. It's an epidemic but because the cause is diet the truth is being suppressed by business interests.

perikleous's picture

Lack of quality paying jobs kills upward progress, killing hope, causing mental pain which inturn can be masked by opiate drug use!

Simply put, they use drugs BECAUSE they cannot move upward through earning income!

Any and every dependent drug user would prefer to work, if for nothing else to support there habit!

They are not working because of drug use, they use drugs because they are not working!!!

serotonindumptruck's picture

At a dollar a milligram, it's the next, best thing to Capitalism.

JRobby's picture

Strike 1: Esteemed Princeton professor

Strike 2: Former Obama White House economist

Strike 3: Alan Krueger (is back)

Euthanize the filthy fuck

Demographic Destruction by Design. Crush innovation


max2205's picture

Global warming 

runswithscissors's picture

"you do look glum! What you need is a gramme of soma."

tripletail's picture

I have a simpler solution: Deport all illegal aliens and H*B visa holders. Problem solved. Guaranteed.

cheeseheader's picture

Ding, ding, ding.


This guy makes my degree in Econ look less than dubious.  But then, he's from the Ivy League--and I'm from some college you've never heard of.

The Ivory Tower (with the attendant idiots residing therein) is something to be dealt with by us mere normal citizens...somehow.  Tell me again, what is this thing called tenure???  And why does America have it?


AtATrESICI's picture

Only one problem with that the H*B visa holder's US counterparts lack the ability to critically think and have a shitty work ethic by in large.

Not all just most.

tripletail's picture

It's actually quite the opposite. While I try to avoid Indians, I all too often run across them. And they are some of the dumbest people I've ever known. Take highly distributed messaging systems - you can explain it to them all day long, but they just don't get it. Throw in Scala and Akka, and they're totally lost. I survived such a nightmare just recently. Naturally, I won the war. It was not difficult. That's why I strongly advocate the deporatation of all illegal aliens and H*B visa holders.

AtATrESICI's picture

Maybe I am just going through a bad patch of trying to "train" some who have graduated with engineering degrees within the last 5 years. They are smart but lack a sense of immediacy. This is what I find difficult to deal with. I am in an environment where in my opinion they should be working 50 hrs at the very least and I am lucky to get 30. We are talking graduates from the so called Top 10 Engineering Schools. Fucking KIDS.

If someone wants to call themselves a coder and cannot learn/teach themselves quickly on their own from the project documentation they are on the wrong career path. That goes for anything technical. These type of people are teaching themselves all sorts of shit all the time and need no outside motivation.

By the way I have the pleasure of knowing some very smart folks from India that may have started on a H-1B but are now on the EB-5 track.

In conclusion every country is full of dumbfucks and some smartfucks.

Blankenstein's picture

This is because they have been dumbed down by the boob tube and everybody gets a medal.  

Theta_Burn's picture

Great, everyone getting high on my dime..


AtATrESICI's picture

Free Oxycontin for all. Long live the Affordable Care Act...No I am not joking. The victims of the ACA can't get procedures or medication that they need but they can get 180 80 mg Oxycontin per month and a bunch of other shit to get high off of. Who benefits from this??? Not the ones on the receiving end of the drugs.

The Owners have monetized unproductive segments of society. After drugs then prison. Winning....

Giant Meteor's picture

Shortly after the so named "global financial crisis" it has come to my attention, many folks getting bent over, and feeling the pinch of the , ahem, downturn, filed early for their government benefits, and while one can say cause is not neccessarily effect, there is no question that things have moved to a certain state of lost hoplessness, and learned helplessness, and increasingly, a dependent underclass, a tainted society. These cultural aberrations are deeply rooted, cultivated from the same source. A corrupt money/political system, and thus, everything else it touches, it poisons ..

CNONC's picture

The opioid epidemic really took off amongst the working class after the removal of Vioxx. They hyped an increased risk of heart attack to remove from the market the only non addictive alternative to opioids. Middle aged working class men found themselves being forced to choose between continuing to work while in pain or taking serious dope. Those who chose the dope were unable to work. They also shouldn't be driving either., but you can identify them by the crip tags on their cars. Stay far away from medicated oldsters with crip tags

rbianco3's picture

Someone I know almost got sucked down the toilet bowl.

Said all the dealers have a tag like you menionted. 360 per month times 30 mg = $1,080 enough when you add disability. 

But to argue the other side they are victims of the healthcare industry- I mean seriously wronged. Frickin shame


americanreality's picture

"Dime" sounds a bit generous considering the level of thinking displayed in your posts. 

Seasmoke's picture

How long can someone be on these things ???

serotonindumptruck's picture

Is a heroin addict ever truly "clean"?

JRobby's picture

Some would say that a real habit alters the user at the cellular level permanently.

Since the synthetics are extremely powerful compared to heroin? Who knows?

americanreality's picture

Detoxing off heroin won't kill you. An alcoholic stops drinking, he/she is in danger of dying.  Maintenance heroin addicts can function indefinitely, given reliable measured doses.  Problem is the potency varies. 

rbianco3's picture

Heroin is tough. Oxycodone tough enough- have some close family that escaped the latter.

Suboxone IF used properly- not the way prescribed has the potential to save lives. Problem is that it's not prescribed/used right- and is one addiction for another. 

Xena fobe's picture

If one takes the same small quantity daily and doesn't exceed it, decades.  It is the acetaminophen in codeine that could eventually harm the liver.

armageddon addahere's picture

'How long can someone be on these things ???'

The rest of their lives.

KimAsa's picture

The other half on benzos.