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Monday, September 01, 2008

"Bowling Alone Because the Team Got Downsized"

According to this research, a spell of unemployment makes a worker less likely to engage in social activities. The cross-sectional results - examining how the degree of social involvement varies with the number of unemployment spells across workers at a point in time - raise questions of causality (does some third variable make worker less socially engaged and more likely to get fired), but the time-series component of the panel where individual workers are traced over time and they tend to be less socially involved after being fired than before, an effect that persists for the rest of their lives, is more convincing:

Bowling alone because the team got downsized, EurekAlert: The pain of downsizing extends far beyond laid off workers and the people who depend on their paychecks, according to a new ... study

Even a single involuntary displacement has a lasting impact on a worker's inclination to volunteer and participate in a whole range of social and community groups and organizations...

"What we find is that even just one disruption in employment makes workers significantly less likely to participate in a whole range of social activities — from joining book clubs to participating in the PTA and supporting charities," said Jennie E. Brand, a UCLA sociologist and the study's lead author. "After being laid off or downsized, workers are less likely to give back to their community."

The ... research found that workers who had experienced just one involuntary disruption in their employment status were 35% less likely to be involved in their communities than their counterparts who had never experienced a job loss due to layoff, downsizing or restructuring, or a business closing or relocating. Moreover, the exodus from community involvement continued ... for the rest of the workers' lives.

"Social engagement often involves an element of social trust and a sense that things are reciprocal — that you give some support if you get some support, and you benefit from society if society benefits from you," said Brand, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA. "When workers are displaced, the tendency is to feel as though the social contract has been violated, and we found that they are less likely to reciprocate." ...

For workers who were displaced during their peak earning years — between 35 and 53 years of age — the effects were the strongest. ...

Affiliation with political groups ... showed no statistically significant downturn over time, possibly because the experience of being displaced impressed some workers with the need for political action. ...

The latest findings have considerable ramifications, she contended. "Whether citizens participate is important for the effective functioning of neighborhoods, schools, communities and democracies," Brand said.

Moreover, withdrawing could prolong unemployment by limiting a displaced worker's exposure to contacts that could possibly lead to a new job.

"If workers withdraw socially after being laid off, then they're experiencing double-jeopardy," Brand said. "They're losing their jobs, and then they're not participating in society, so they're not keeping up with social contacts that might help them find a new job." ... "Everybody loses when people withdraw from society," Brand said.

    Posted by on Monday, September 1, 2008 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Unemployment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (11)

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