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Occupational Stability in a Changing Economy
Unformatted Document Text:  Occupational Stability in a Changing Economy Matissa Hollister Sociology Department Dartmouth College AbstractMany Americans believe that the labor market has become much less stable in the last few decades. Academic research tenure and employer turnover, however, has led to mixed results. Meanwhile, conflicting predictions have emerged regarding the role of occupations in the changing economy, with some predicting an increasing role for occupations in the New Economy and others proposing that occupations have become less stable and less meaningful over time. I examine rates of instability in work status, employer tenure, and occupations for men ages 22 to 30 in two cohorts of the National Longitudinal Surveys. I find moderate increases in instability in work status and employer tenure in the later cohort, primarily concentrated among men from disadvantaged family backgrounds. In contrast, I find a large increase in occupational instability in the second cohort, an increased instability that occurred across all levels of family background. These results suggest that occupational instability, rather than work status and tenure, may be the central cause of the popular anxiety about the New Economy. Introduction “The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents' generation typically had one job, one skill, one career, often with one company that provided health care and a pension.... Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives.” -President George W. Bush, 2004 Republican National Convention, New York Many Americans believe that the labor market has changed fundamentally in the last few decades. They point to trends such as rapid technological change, increased global trade, and the increased power of corporate shareholders as factors behind a major shift in the types and nature of employment opportunities. The result is an increased anxiety among Americans about the future of work and an “obsession with work…to the point that it’s a defining aspect of our culture” (Ignatius 2004, p. A19). Academic research on the impact of the changing economy on the labor market experiences of American workers, however, has led to mixed results. Much of the

Authors: Hollister, Matissa.
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Occupational Stability in a Changing Economy
Matissa Hollister
Sociology Department
Dartmouth College
Abstract
Many Americans believe that the labor market has become much less stable in the last
few decades. Academic research tenure and employer turnover, however, has led to
mixed results. Meanwhile, conflicting predictions have emerged regarding the role of
occupations in the changing economy, with some predicting an increasing role for
occupations in the New Economy and others proposing that occupations have become
less stable and less meaningful over time. I examine rates of instability in work status,
employer tenure, and occupations for men ages 22 to 30 in two cohorts of the National
Longitudinal Surveys. I find moderate increases in instability in work status and
employer tenure in the later cohort, primarily concentrated among men from
disadvantaged family backgrounds. In contrast, I find a large increase in occupational
instability in the second cohort, an increased instability that occurred across all levels of
family background. These results suggest that occupational instability, rather than work
status and tenure, may be the central cause of the popular anxiety about the New
Economy.
Introduction
“The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our
parents' generation typically had one job, one skill, one career, often with one company
that provided health care and a pension.... Today, workers change jobs, even careers,
many times during their lives.”
-President George W. Bush, 2004 Republican National Convention, New York
Many Americans believe that the labor market has changed fundamentally in the
last few decades. They point to trends such as rapid technological change, increased
global trade, and the increased power of corporate shareholders as factors behind a major
shift in the types and nature of employment opportunities. The result is an increased
anxiety among Americans about the future of work and an “obsession with work…to the
point that it’s a defining aspect of our culture” (Ignatius 2004, p. A19).
Academic research on the impact of the changing economy on the labor market
experiences of American workers, however, has led to mixed results. Much of the


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