Abstract: The Difference a Downturn Can Make: Assessing the Early Effects of the Economic Crisis on the Employment Experiences of Workers (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12970 The Difference a Downturn Can Make: Assessing the Early Effects of the Economic Crisis on the Employment Experiences of Workers

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 5:00 PM
Marina (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD , Boston College, Director, Center on Aging & Work; Associate Professor, Chestnut Hill, MA
Christina J. Matz-Costa, MSW , Boston College, Research Associate, Center on Aging & Work; Doctoral Candidate, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background and Purpose: Occupational social workers have long recognized the importance of paying attention to the quality of workers' employment experiences which can have significant and direct impacts on the quality of their lives and the lives of their families. For the past five years, two trends have jolted workplaces around the world: globalization (including immigration) and shifts in the age demographics (including the increased labor force participation rates of older workers). The current economic downturn has added shock waves to an already hyper-turbulent employment situation.

There is some evidence that the current economic crisis may be affecting employees differently depending on their age. For example, changes in unemployment rates are being found to vary by age, with those in some of the younger age groups experiencing particularly high rates of unemployment (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009).

Few studies thus far have assessed the impact that the economic downturn is having on employee's perceptions of their employment experiences, however. This presentation will focus on the extent to which the onset of the current economic crisis has affected how employees assess their own employment experiences and whether the changes differ based on age and/or changes in perceptions of job security.

Methods: We used data from the Age & Generations Study gathered before and after the “onset” of the 2008 economic crisis to examine the employment experiences of workers in 9 different organizations. Repeated measures analyses of variance were used to assess differences between 650 participants' survey responses collected at Time 1 (November 2007 to March 2008) and at Time 2 (May to September 2008).

Results: Overall, we found that employees' perceptions of job security, employee engagement, supervisor support, work overload, inclusion, and job quality decreased at between Time 1 and Time 2. In contrast (and not unexpectedly), perceptions of work overload increased. Further, there was a significant interaction effect between engagement and age, such that as employees got older the differences between their engagement scores across the two time points became smaller, with younger boomers and older boomers/traditionalists scores hardly changing at all between Time 1 and Time 2.

Findings also suggest that those who felt that their job security had decreased experienced a slightly greater decline in their assessments of the quality of their employment experiences (specifically, their level of engagement in their work, the supportiveness of their supervisors, the extent to which they felt included at work, and their job quality) between Time 1 and Time 2 than those whose job security stayed the same or increased.

Conclusions and Implications: Even in the very early stages of the economic downturn, the findings of this study suggest that the economic crisis has indeed had an impact on the employment experiences of workers; and, in some cases, the degree of this impact differs based on age and/or changes in perceptions of job security. The findings provide social workers with insight about steps that can be taken to promote the resilience of employees during the current economic crisis.