Job Insecurity, Adaptive Strategies, and Health in Early Adulthood

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Job Insecurity, Adaptive Strategies, and Health in Early Adulthood

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Job insecurity is a prevalent work stressor in contemporary life at the turn of the 21st century. A report by the International Labour Organisation in 2015 estimates that only a quarter of the world's workforce has a permanent employment contract, while the rest are working informally, self-employed, or on short-term temporary contracts. Even those who are working as permanent employees may face job insecurity, as organizational restructuring and layoffs become commonplace. In this dissertation, I draw on a panel dataset, the Youth Development Study (YDS) to focus on workers during their early adulthood, ages 26-35, between 2000 and 2009 from the Midwestern United States. This dataset also contains information on the respondent's parents as well as their own responses during adolescence. First, I find that individuals who were more disadvantaged growing up, as indicated by mothers's reporting of a higher number of unemployment spell, and lower parental education, desire more stable employment as young adults. However, these respondents were also more likely to engage in non-standard work marked by greater precariousness during early adulthood, suggesting a paradox of desiring more stable work, but not being able to obtain those types of employment. Second, I find that respondents engage in two forms of adaptive strategies in the face of heightened job insecurity--returning to school and adjusting their expectations of paid work, specifically lowering their subjective valuing of stable employment. I find differences in the characteristics of respondents engaging in these strategies, such that those who already report higher financial hardship (subjective financial stress or carrying debt, such as school loans, a mortgage or a car loan) are more likely to utilize these strategies. Third, I find a robust relationship between higher job insecurity and worse self-rated health for this sample of respondents. This is particularly the case for young adults who are women, White, and married. My dissertation builds on a continuing literature on antecedents, responses, and effects of perceived job insecurity, an important topic given its rising prevalence as a work stress.



University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2015. Major: Sociology. Advisor: Phyllis Moen. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 215 pages.

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Lam, Jack. (2015). Job Insecurity, Adaptive Strategies, and Health in Early Adulthood. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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