The psychological price of long-term #unemployment | Blog#42

Science Agrees: Being Laid Off Is Terrible — The Atlantic
New research from England suggests that cutbacks can lead to lasting trust issues.

During the Great Recession, layoffs and discharges in the U.S. spiked to a rate of 2 percent of total employment in the beginning of 2009. Quite a few of my friends and classmates were laid off from their jobs, and though the economic recovery is underway, many of them still have residual fears of being laid off—in fact, new research shows that being laid off could cause a worker to mistrust society for years.

The Percentage of U.S. Workers Who Were Laid Off, From 2005 to 2015


“Society is still recovering from one of the longest recessions this century and much has been discussed in counting the economic costs of that. This study looks at the social costs of recession,” says James Laurence, a sociologist and research fellow at the University of Manchester, of his research.

Laurence’s study looked at a sample of nearly 7,000 individuals in the U.K. to investigate the psychological effects of being laid off. The question asked was, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted, or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” The answers ranged from “most people can be trusted” to “can’t be too careful” to “depends.” The respondents were asked this question at age 33, and then again 17 years later, at 50.

Laurence found that individuals who experienced a layoff were 4.5 percent less likely to trust even 17 years later. This effect was even stronger for individuals who placed a greater value on work and career, at 7 percent. “One of the striking findings of the research was that how being laid off affected someone’s social trust seemed highly dependent on their level of ‘work-centrality,'” says Laurence

Please read my original piece on MLK and inequality. In it, I explain the issues behind the unemployment numbers. 

Let’s look at unemployment. According to Pew Research Center, during the worst of times, say, during a recession, white unemployment typically rises to about 5% or a little more. During the worst of the Great Recession, it rose to over 8%. Black unemployment, during a recession, is typically double that of white unemployment, or about 11%. During the Great Recession, Black unemployment rose to 19%. International Business Times reports on unemployment for February 2015:

“In February, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 10.4 percent, while the comparable rates for whites, Hispanics and Asians were 4.7 percent, 6.6 percent and 4.0 percent, in that order, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday. The national unemployment rate was 5.5 percent last month. Last year, 23.7 percent of those who are black and unemployed had attended some college, 15.4 percent had bachelor’s degrees and 4.5 percent had advanced degrees.” 

On appearance, this compares almost exactly to the conditions in 1963, though there are significant differences.