ECONOMIC DOWNTURNS, JOB QUALITY, AND JOB POLARIZATION IN THE US LABOR MARKET

Supported by grants from the Hellman Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the University of California, this project examines the impact of the structural shifts in the labor market that occurred during and after the Great Recession to promote a deeper understanding of how employment is influenced by economic crises. The project addresses 3 primary research questions: One, whether structural changes that occurred in the labor market during the Great Recession emulate or diverge from patterns of polarization observed in the pre recessionary era. Two, whether structural changes that occurred in the recessionary/post-recessionary period replaced or appear to be replacing “good jobs” with “bad jobs”. Three, to what extent these structural changes may be related to or impact the concentration of specific working populations or labor market institutions across geographies and labor market contexts (i.e. sectors or industries). The project utilizes a triangulated mixed-method research design carried out in two phases.

The first phase of the project utilized cross-sectional quantitative data analyses of American Community Survey Data to document both quantitatively and qualitatively employment shifts during and after the Great Recession. Analyses examine how employment shifts influence the distribution of jobs across populations of workers by individual characteristics (i.e. race/ethnicity, gender, citizenship) and structural characteristics (i.e. occupation, industry, and geography) across national, regional, and local labor markets. The extent that employment shifts follow or diverge from existing theories of job polarization and trends that may suggest alternative explanations for growth or decline in polarization at the national and sub-national level were identified. Applied econometric analysis and other quantitative methods will be used to further explore determinants of structural shifts across geographic scales and contexts.

The second phase of the study includes in-depth case studies of  5 representative  “local” economies (county areas). Sites were selected based on their capacity to offer insight across important contexts and the extent to which they represent trends and patterns of structural shifts in employment identified in Phase 1.  Case studies focus on the time period of 1990-2014 and research activities  include document and content analyses, archival research, and structured and semi-structured interviews via telephone with local economic development and workforce development officials, policymakers in the case study regions, and workers. Analyses focus on articulating the unique temporal and spatial characteristics that influence structural shifts in employment in the labor market across these contexts.

 

Related Publications:

Visser, M.A. (2018). Restructuring Opportunity: Employment Change and Job Quality in the US during the Great Recession Forthcoming  in Socio-Economic Review.  https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwy002

Visser, M.A. (2018). The Color Gradient of Economic Opportunity: Skin Tone Labor Market Segmentation and Economic Opportunity for Puerto Ricans in the US. Forthcoming in  CENTRO Journal.

Visser, M.A. (2017). Shedding Light on Economic Opportunity: Skin Tone and Job Quality during the Great  Recession. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 43(9): 1562-1579.