U of M study identifies psychological factors that keep young adults employed

“The current ‘Great Recession’ in Europe and America has had particularly severe consequences for young workers,” said Jeylan Mortimer, U of M sociology professor. “They suffer high unemployment rates with lasting consequences for their careers.”

The study identifies three psychological orientations and behaviors that influence employment success during the transition to adulthood: educational aspirations, career goal certainty and job search activities.

“Although structural factors like industry, region, etc… are undoubtedly important, these three characteristics are found to be particularly significant career transition resources,” said Mike Vuolo, professor at Purdue University.

Young adults who maintained high career aspirations and clarity of career goals from age 18 to 30 were more likely to be employed between 2007 and 2009 (when they were 33-36 years old)and also to have higher wages in 2009. Young workers who manifested greater indecision in their career goals were less successful in weathering the economic turmoil in the Great Recession. These trends persisted even when educational attainments were controlled.

“The factors identified in this study are interrelated amongst themselves and also influence longer-term successes and vulnerabilities during difficult economic times,” said Mortimer.

The sample examined in this study is part of the Youth Development Study, an ongoing longitudinal study begun in 1988 gathered from St. Paul public schools when the youth were in 9th grade. The original sample included 1010 adolescents. The participants have been surveyed annually since, and now are approximately 37-38 years old. The analysis for this article spans the years from when the participants were 18 to 36 years old.

The study is being presented at the American Sociological Association’s national conference Aug. 20-23 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Contacts: Tessa Eagan, College of Liberal Arts, [email protected], (612) 625-3781
Nick Hanson, University News Service, [email protected], 612-624-1690