The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Psychological Self-Sufficiency: Balancing Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Factors in Workforce Development

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 11:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Philip Young P. Hong, PhD, Associate Professor, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Sangmi Choi, PhD, Post Doctoral Researcher, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Whitney Key, MSW, MPH, Project Coordinator, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Purpose: The purpose of the study is to twofold.  First, it is to validate the factor structure of psychological self-sufficiency (PSS), comprising employment hope (EH) and perceived employment barriers (PEB).  Second, it is to investigate the extent to which PSS affects economic self-sufficiency (ESS) among low-income jobseekers.  The two main theoretical perspectives—human capital development and labor force attachment—have traditionally informed studies that model paths to economic success or self-sufficiency (SS) among welfare recipients and low-income job seekers.  Previous studies have examined SS as an economic outcome that provides lasting benefits to individuals’ psycho-social functioning and positive returns on their family life and economic stability and advancement.  Some recent studies have found that low-income jobseekers view SS to be the process of reaching an economic outcome through psychological empowerment.  This transformational process is termed psychological SS (PSS) and it is hypothesized that PSS contributes to ESS in this study.  This is rather significant because PSS is not considered a byproduct of ESS as have been in past studies but a centerpiece to lasting economic success. 


Methods: Studies have investigated the impact of non-cognitive skills, in conjunction with cognitive abilities, on academic performance and success.  These non-cognitive skills include hope and motivation; the same set of attributes that make up EH.  The cognitive abilities involve mental activities such as judgment and problem solving that correspond to EB.  PSS is conceptualized as a dynamic interface of non-cognitive and cognitive forces that help one remain resilient on their path to ESS.  This study uses data collected from two different local social service agencies in Chicago, IL.  A total of 802 low-income job seekers--391 and 411 from two respective agencies, were available for analysis.  The validated Employment Hope Scale (EHS) and Perceived Employment Barrier Scale (PEBS) were used to as two components of PSS and to test the factor structure of PSS using a multi-sample confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Given adequate fit of CFA, a structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was conducted to investigate the pathways from PSS to ESS. As a measurement of ESS, we used the WEN Economic Self-Sufficiency Scale. Maximum likelihood (ML) was employed to estimate models, and missing data was treated with Full information maximum likelihood (FIML) method.


Results: A multi-sample CFA revealed that PSS composed of EHS and PEBS is replicable across two independent samples with configural and metric invariance achieved. We tested the hypotheses from PSS to ESS using SEM. All fit indices indicated that the theoretical model has a good fit with the data (x2(p) = 2113.191 (.000), df=654, CFI=.935, TLI=.926, RMSEA=.053 (.050-.055)). EHS and EBS together are found to have a significant positive impact on ESS.  


Conclusion: This study validated the factor structure of PSS being made up of EHS and EBS.  It also confirmed the hypothesis that PSS significantly contributes to ESS. Workforce development practitioners need to focus on clients’ PSS when working with them to achieve ESS.  Benchmarking PSS and providing adequate support services along successful employment and retention paths are warranted.