This thesis systematically examines the overall patterns of employment histories
in the United States based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1967-
2005). Over 15,000 individual employment trajectories, including those from previously
under-studied social groups such as workers in the secondary labor market, blue-collar
occupations, and those outside big firms, were compared by optimal matching analysis
and cluster analysis.
Accounting for gender, age period, and birth cohort, the distance of Americans’
career paths from the stable, full-time trajectories was found to be decreasing over time
when careers were examined holistically; meanwhile, career paths have become more
homogeneous to one another. Gender gap in employment trajectories has considerably
declined. These trends have been driven primarily by women’s increasing engagement in
full-time employment while men’s trajectories have changed only slightly. Three primary patterns of employment trajectories were found—an unstable, part-time pattern, a stable,
inactive pattern, and a stable, full-time pattern that accounted for about three-quarter of
the cases. Those in the stable, full-time pattern, particularly men, were highly likely to
continue this type of employment trajectories into older ages. A modest occupation effect
was found in which white-collar workers and those in occupations dominated by men,
such as managers and administrators and machine operatives, were more positively
associated with the stable, full-time pattern than those from other occupations, even after
gender was taken into account. Overall, this study draws an optimistic picture of employment trajectories that
contradicts current perceptions about the disappearance of long-term, full-time
employment. Its conclusions, however, need to be interpreted with caution given a
possible under-estimation of job changes, part-time work, and underemployment as well
as an under-representation of women, economically less active people, and those in big
family units due to data quality issues.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2012. Major: Sociology. Advisors: John Rob Warren, Phyllis Moen. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 208 pages, appendices A-G.
Mapping trends: patterns of employment trajectories in the United States, 1967-2005..
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