What percent of your state's residents are in the work force?

An undertow of the current health care debate has been the suspicion that working Americans will be forced to cover the cost of health care for deadbeats who decline to work and pay for their own. I thought it would be interesting to look, state by state, at just how many people 16 years of age or older are actually in the work force as defined by the census bureau, i.e., working outside of the home or actively looking.

This graphic, from the latest American Community Survey by Bureau of the Census, shows a large disparity from region to region.

Why are so many people older than 15 not in the work force today? According to a 2004 study (current unemployment will change these numbers temporarily) the main reasons are:

37.9% are retired
19.1% are going to school
14.7% suffer from chronic illness or disability
13.2% are taking care of children/others at home
4.3% are unable to find work
3.6% are uninterested in working

Certainly one can't include retirees, mothers, or the disabled in the class 'deadbeats'. The remaining categories aren't as large as I might have suspected. In fact, the largest factor, by a wide margin, is the number of retirees, most of which are already included in the Medicare system.

Comparing the above chart with one showing where people 65 and older continue to work explains a great deal of the differences state to state. If we need to increase the percentage of those eligible to work that are active in the work force, the low hanging fruit is the retiree.

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