Acton Institute Powerblog

Why are Working-Class Men Falling Behind?

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Video-GamesWhy are working-class men falling behind? Economic, familial, and lifestyle factors all play a role. One of the main reasons less-educated men are losing economic opportunities, explains anthropologist Michael Jindra, is that they are gaining more ways to indulge in entertainment and leisure:

Dr. Leonard Sax’s Boys Adrift lists video games among the causes of boys’ school struggles, not because they drive boys to violence, but because they create a need for stimulation, crowd out reading, and lessen boys’ focus in school and other activities. (Boys play console games, commonly used for sports and violent games, at four times the rate of girls.) Rates of ADHD have skyrocketed, and the causes of this are unclear, but overstimulation may play a role. These patterns can also lead later in life to heavy television viewing, often of sports (witness the domination ESPN has over the male gaze), and heavy online activity, such as viewing porn.

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All of these things mentioned above—early reliance on stimulating entertainment, lower educational attainment, disconnection from families and role models, and the attractions of different, “edgy” subcultures—contribute to a widening gulf between those more connected to family, work, and society, and those without these commitments. While men are losing connections, women continue to participate in the labor force, attend religious services more often, and belong to other community and civic organizations. This is partly because many have dependent children and need to support them, whereas men can to a large extent avoid this responsibility.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Dylan Pahman

    That first paragraph from Jindra has quite a few speculative claims, if not non sequiturs. At best, he is saying video games *may possibly* cause ADHD and *may possibly* lead to more frequent television and internet use, which *may possibly* include pornography. That strikes me as a pretty thin assertion.

    • Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but I don’t think Jindra is saying that video games cause those other problems. I think he is saying that boys have a desire for overstimulation that is easy to fill nowadays with video games, television, and porn.

      As someone who came of age in the era of the Atari 2600 and 3 TV channels, I can certainly see how it is much easier to be overstimulated than it was just a few decades ago.

      • Dylan Pahman

        I certainly wouldn’t argue against the idea that we have more opportunity for overstimulation today, including video games. He does say, however, that video games “create a need for stimulation, crowd out reading, and lessen boys’ focus in school and other activities,” which is a causal claim and more than saying that they are simply one opportunity to satisfy a preexistent desire for stimulation. So I think my complaint stands.

        That boys play video games more than read for school may show the ill-effects of video games, but it may just as likely show the poverty of a curriculum that fails to connect with the way most boys learn best. Which causes which (if either) is not certain, hence I find the statement speculative.

  • People made the same arguments about movies in the 1920’s, radio in the 1930’s, television and sports in the 1950’s, etc. This type of analysis is wrong because it assumes people are born innocent and culture determines their values. That is an anti-Christian philosophy. People are born with a tendency toward evil. Socialization helps only to a small degree and only then if the children and young people cooperate and have the same values. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the consequences of the abandonment of traditional Christianity. The Bible provides many examples of failing culture when people abandon God. Programs will not make ungodly people act godly.

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