New research finds:
The rise of in-and-outs [men 25 to 54 years old who leave the workforce for 2 years or less] has [increased] steadily over time. … While in-and-outs only comprised 1.5% of the prime age male population in any given month in 1984, this share had risen to 2.9% by 2010. Given that there were nearly 62 million prime age men in the US in 2010, the increase in this share represents about 1 million additional men out of work at any point in time due to this margin alone. Depending on the share of the indeterminate spells which were actually in-and-out spells, in-and-outs are responsible for 20-40% of the rise of nonparticipation over this time period.
In-and-outs are highly attached to the labor force, work typical jobs, and are only notable in that they take brief breaks out of the labor force. Nearly 60% of in-and-outs work continuously for every year of the subsequent decade after their break, and an additional 30% or so work either eight or nine years out of ten.
In-and-outs do not represent men switching between market-sector work and home production. In-and-outs replace time spent on work mostly with additional leisure activities. In-and-outs do not substantially increase their time spent on child care, care for adults, education, or health-related care.
[There is] little evidence to suggest that changes in labor demand are responsible. Instead, the rise of in-and-outs may be due to changes in the desired amount of labor supply among prime age men in the US.
Employment shocks appear to have little effect on temporary non-participation in the form of in-and-outs.
On the whole, income tax rates for in-and-outs fell substantially over this time period, implying that the rise of in-and-outs cannot be attributed to rising income tax rates.
In-and-outs have been largely unaffected by changes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, one of the largest cash-based transfer programs. Most in-and-outs receive no cash-based transfers of any kind.