I want you to read “Men and Jobs,” which is a chapter from a 1960s social study about unemployed men in Washington, DC. (Yes, I am assigning you reading that is more than 50 years old. It’s not a painful read. I promise. It is located on our course website).
The chapter “Men and Jobs” begins compellingly. A truck drives up and down the streets of a Washington, DC neighborhood. The driver of the truck calls out the window toward a group of men, trying to recruit any one of them for “day labor,” where the men would exchange several hours of work for some cash. But many of these men, who are routinely unemployed, turn down the truck driver’s job offer. This is puzzling. Why would an unemployed man turn down any job/opportunity to make money? How can we explain this seemingly irrational behavior?
After reading “Men and Jobs” in its entirety, I want you to return to the chapter’s opening scene — where the unemployed men refuse the truck driver’s job offer — and then examine that behavior (to turn down the job offer) in terms of choices and constraints. In doing so, please address the following questions: Why do the unemployed men featured in this chapter choose not to hop on the truck and go to work? What are the things operating in their lives that constrain them from accepting the job offer? All things considered, does turning down the job seem like an irrational choice for the unemployed man to make? Why or why not?