Long term social damage caused by downsizing

September 1, 2008

Displaced workers mysteriously drop out of civic, business, political, neighborhood groups, social and leisure activities, country clubs, sports teams and weekly gatherings with friends, Brand and Burgard (2008). UCLA-University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study researcher claims, “Everybody loses when people withdraw from society.”

However, membership in professional and political organizations did not decline in the study group. “Displacement seems to change their whole trajectory of participation (Brand 2008).”

“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, found the study, which appears in the September issue of the international scholarly journal Social Forces.”

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“Social participation is important to participatory democracy, to healthy neighborhoods, and to effective schools (Putnam 2000). Individuals who participate may also be advantaged in the labor market: social and economic resources are embedded in social networks (Bourdieu 1983; Coleman 1988; Granovetter 1973),1 networks that may be formed through involvement in various social organizations and associations. Social participation is also associated with better physical and mental health and well-being, important outcomes in and of themselves, but also important for the labor market (Berkman 1995; Durkheim 1933; House 1981; House, Landis, and Umberson 1988). From the mid 1940s to the early 1970s, there was an unprecedented increase in social participation in the U.S. This trend coincided with unprecedented and widespread economic prosperity, marked by a low rate of unemployment and generally increasing real earnings. In recent decades, however, average rates of social participation have declined (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Brashears 2006; Putnam 2000). Likewise, the trend toward increasingly widespread economic prosperity in the U.S. has reversed (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:3).”

“[I]s the effect of job displacement on social participation mediated by post-displacement psychological distress and/or reduced feelings of social trust or reciprocity, above and beyond experiences of downward socioeconomic mobility? To address this question, we examine the potential mediating role of measures of depression, self-acceptance, and social reciprocity on the relationship between displacement and participation, net of downward social mobility (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:5).”

“Job displacement usually includes a sequence of stressful events from anticipation of job loss through the loss itself, to a spell of unemployment, to job search and training, to reemployment, often at reduced wages and status. Initial movement into unemployment is associated with a number of economic pressures, new patterns of interaction with family members, and personal assessment in relation to individual values and societal pressures (Pearlin et al. 1981). It is therefore not surprising that a significant association has been found between job displacement and psychological distress over the life course: Displaced workers report lower levels of self-acceptance, self-confidence, morale, and higher levels of depression and dissatisfaction with life (Burgard, Brand, and House 2007; Dooley, Fielding, and Levi 1996;Gallo et al. 2000; Kessler, Turner, and House 1989; Turner 1995; Warr and Jackson 1985) (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:5).”

“Expanding on Durkheim’s theory, Wilensky (1961) found that orderly careers, i.e. a succession of jobs related in function with elevations in status, free of unexpected periods of unemployment and disorderly shifts in jobs, occupations, and industries, were associated with strong attachment to one’s community and society (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:6).”

“[T]he “spillover” theory asserts that being employed in a job that encourages initiative, thought, and independence also indirectly encourages social participation (Kohn and Schooler 1982; Rain, Lane, and Steiner 1991; Staines 1980; Wilson and Musik 1997) (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:7).”

“[V]alues and attitudes towards oneself and one’s society may influence levels of social participation. Putnam (2000) argues that where positive social roles, social trust, and norms of reciprocity flourish, individuals participate socially. However, displacement may negatively alter individual attitudes and self-perception, and thus, reduce participation. Thus, the strain of insecure employment, actual displacement events, periods of unemployment, reemployment in jobs with lower earnings and/or lower quality, psychological distress, and the erosion of commitment to social reciprocity may all contribute to decreased levels of social participation among displaced workers (Brand and Burgard 2007-05:7).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Brand, Jennie, and Sarah Burgard. 2007-05. “Effects of Job Displacement on Social Participation: Findings over the Life Course of a Cohort of Joiners.” PSC Research Report No. 07-623. May 2007.

Abstract: “Career disorder and economic distress have been identified as potential causes of the observed decline in social participation in the U.S. We examine the causal effect of job displacement, a career disorder-producing event that is associated with subsequent socioeconomic and psychological decline, on social participation. Using more than 45 years of panel data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study and difference-in-differences regression estimation, we find significant and lasting negative effects of displacement on subsequent social participation for workers displaced during their prime earnings years, ages 35-53, while no effect for workers displaced in the years approaching retirement, ages 53-64. Results also suggest that socioeconomic and psychological decline resulting from job displacement do not explain the negative impact of job displacement on social participation (Brand and Burgard 2007-05).”

Brand, Jennie, and Sarah Burgard. 2008-09. “Effects of Job Displacement on Social Participation: Findings Over the Life Course of a Cohort of Joiners.” Social Forces, .

Burgard, Sarah, Jennie Brand, and James S. House. 2007. “Toward a Better Estimation of the Effect of Job Loss on Health.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48: 369-384.

Price, Richard H., and Sarah Burgard. 2008. “The new employment contract and worker health in the United States.” In Making Americans healthier : social and economic policy as health policy. New York : Russell Sage.

Putnam, Robert D. 2001. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Public Release. 2008-09-01. “Bowling alone because the team got downsized.” Social Forces. Eureka Alert. Accessed September 2, 2008.

One Response to “Long term social damage caused by downsizing”

  1. americaninc Says:

    great story! fabulous blog!

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