Abstract: Social Support, Employment Hope and Economic Self-Sufficiency Among Low-Income Jobseekers (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Social Support, Employment Hope and Economic Self-Sufficiency Among Low-Income Jobseekers

Thursday, January 11, 2018: 3:37 PM
Supreme Court (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Philip Young Hong, PhD, Professor, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
Jang Ho Park, MSW, Doctoral Student, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
Alanna Shin, MSW, Doctoral Student, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Diane Williams, MSW, Doctoral Student, Loyola University, Chicago
Purpose: Economic self-sufficiency (ESS) is a significant social policy goal and a success outcome for low-income job seekers. However, little is known about the process of jobseekers’ journey to get a job as they overcome barriers and move forward toward goals by way of developing employment hope. Previous research on self-sufficiency has mainly focused on the economic outcomes that include employment, earnings, and welfare status. Among the few studies that examined the “process” element to self-sufficiency is one that delineates psychological self-sufficiency (PSS) as a bottom-up theory of change. Hong (2013) suggests that PSS is a process of switching from perceived barriers to employment hope. Adding to the PSS process is an enabling factor called social support. Social support is found to have a positive effect on achieving economic outcomes (Brown & Riley, 2005). This is particularly significant when long-term unemployment and social and economic exclusion have left low-income jobseekers with little trust in the mainstream economy to give oneself a favorable image as a stable “worker” to keep moving forward with positive future outlook and outcome expectations. The gap in the literature is that there is little evidence as to how social support contributes to employment hope as they relate to ESS. Therefore, this study investigates the mediating role of employment hope between social support and ESS.

Method: A structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis was used with a sample of 1,443 low-income jobseekers participating in two Chicago-based job readiness training programs. Key variables in this model are employment hope, social support and economic self-sufficiency. A recently revalidated Short Employment Hope Scale (EHS-14; Hong et al., 2014)—including 3 factors of psychological empowerment, futuristic self-motivation, utilization of skills and resources, and goal orientation—was used to measure employment hope. Social support was measured with Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (Cohen et al., 1985)—including 3 factors of appraisal, belonging, and tangible supports—and economic self-sufficiency was measured using the Women’s Employment Network (WEN) Economic Self-Sufficiency Scale (Gowdy & Pearlmutter, 1993)—including 4 factors of autonomy and self-determination; financial security and responsibility; family and self well-being; and basic assets for community living.

Results: SEM results indicate that employment hope mediates the path between social support and economic self-sufficiency. Social support was significantly associated with both employment hope (.389) and economic self-sufficiency (.101). Also the employment hope was significantly associated with economic self-sufficiency (.282). All fit indexes demonstrated a good model fit (RMSEA: .065, CFI: .976, TLI: .966).

Implications: It is suggested that social support may assist clients to increase their employment hope and help clients on their journey to achieving economic self-sufficiency. Positive social support has the potential to develop and sustain employment hope as the core aspect of psychological self-sufficiency that leads to economic self-sufficiency. These findings suggest that social workers should capitalize on existing positive social support or develop new network of support systems through social worker-client relationships or peer-peer interactions for low-income jobseekers participating in job readiness training programs.