Date of Completion
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
As the United States continues its transition into a postindustrial society, we are slowly moving away from the standard work arrangements that characterized the early post-World War II era towards less secure arrangements. Examining changes in workers’ perceptions of insecurity is important because these perceptions often condition their actions within the labor market. Recent events like the Great Recession also reflect a changing economic landscape and highlight the need for a closer look at workers’ perceived insecurity. In addition to using a social structure of accumulation (SSA) framework, this dissertation distinguishes three dimensions of subjective economic insecurity: perceived job precarity, perceived skill precarity, and perceived financial precarity. Two research questions are considered by this research. First, how have U.S. workers’ perceptions of economic insecurity changed during the late postwar era, especially in the initial stage of spatialization and the aftermath of the Great Recession? Second, what factors have contributed to these changes in U.S. workers’ subjective economic insecurity? These questions are addressed by analyzing GSS data from the cumulative file, which covers the entirety of the late postwar period, and the Quality of Working Life Module, which covers the emergence of the spatialization SSA (2002, 2006, and 2010). The findings indicate that the dimensions of subjective economic insecurity are empirically distinct. After controlling for unemployment, both perceived job and financial precarity sharply increase over the course of the late postwar period whereas perceived skill precarity trends slightly downward. The flexible turn in employment relations is positively associated with perceived job precarity but not perceived skill or financial precarity. These results indicate that workers are responding to the shifting employment relationship in a very significant way. During the spatialization SSA, characteristics of security and control tend to be negatively associated with perceived job and financial precarity, whereas characteristics of uncertainty and conflict are positively associated. This is in contrast to the results for perceived skill precarity, which are more varied. These findings suggest that the notion of job security may be becoming less important than a worker’s ability to manage their own career across multiple jobs, firms, and geographical locations.
Lowe, Travis, "Subjective Economic Insecurity in the United States: Perceived Precarity in the New Economy" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 476.