Employment Opportunities
Predictor Assessment
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This predictor describes the relationship between employment and later economic success, such as future employment outcomes, earnings, and job quality. This predictor is directly related to mobility as a measure of economic success, but it also related to other mobility principles through mental and physical health; autonomy on the job; and self-esteem, participation in social activities, and disruption to the household (thus connecting to power and autonomy and being valued in community). Employment is usually a person’s main source of income and economic stability. Having stability can offer an individual more daily predictability and control over his or her life. Being employed and part of the workforce can also reinforce a person’s feeling of value and belonging in community as a positive contributor to the economy and society.

Evidence of the Relationship between Predictor and Related Outcomes 

  • Unemployment (i.e., a lack of desired employment) has a negative impact on earnings that can persist longer than the period of unemployment. Researchers found that a job loss is associated with an immediate 33 percent loss in earnings and up to a 15 percent loss in earnings six years later (Couch and Placzek 2010). Unemployment leads to an estimated lifetime earnings loss of about 20 percent, and its effects on wages can persist as long as 20 years after job displacement. Additionally, when those who faced job displacement are reemployed, they are more likely to be employed part time and to end up in jobs with less job authority, autonomy, and benefits (Brand 2015).
  • In addition to affecting economic success, unemployment has also been linked to negative psychological and physical health impacts as well as decreased social and familial participation. Workers who have been displaced report higher levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety as well as loss of self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-esteem, morale, life satisfaction, social support, and sense of control (Brand 2015). Individuals who are unemployed have significantly lower levels of psychological health than those who are employed (Wanberg 2012).
  • Unemployment has also been linked to declines in physical health, including an increase in reports of physical disability, cardiovascular disease, hospitalization, and use of medical services (Brand 2015)
  • Unemployment increases the risk of family disruption and has negative impacts on children’s well-being, such as by lowering self-esteem and increasing the likelihood of grade repetition, dropout, and suspension or expulsion (Brand 2015).
  • Displaced workers are less likely to participate in social activities (Brand 2015).
  • Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Dooley and colleagues (2000) find that even when controlling for prior history of depression, shifts from employment to unemployment significantly increase depression. The shift from adequate employment to inadequate employment significantly increases depression a similar level. This points to possible effects on the power and autonomy mobility principle as well. Noted mediators are job satisfaction, changes in income, and marital status.
  • Brand (2015) provides a review of the evidence of unemployment’s impact on mobility and determines there is persuasive evidence of the long-term consequences of unemployment on various economic and noneconomic outcomes. 

How Investments Can Influence the Predictor at State or Local Levels

A community can provide a stable regulatory environment and community amenities such as good schools and parks to attract and retain employers and support education and training programs that help residents obtain the skills required to meet local employers’ needs. Local governments could host youth employment programs, like the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program, that offer youth summer work opportunities in the private and government sectors.


The primary reference is marked with an asterisk.

* Brand, Jennie. 2015. “The Far-Reaching Impact of Job Loss and Unemployment.” Annual Review of Sociology 41: 359–75.

Couch, Kenneth A., and Dana A. Placzek. 2010. “Earning Losses of Displaced Workers Revisited.” American Economic Review 100 (1): 572–89.

Dooley, D., Prause, J., and Ham-Rowbottom, K. 2000. “Underemployment and Depression: Longitudinal Relationships.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 41 (4): 421–36.

Wanberg, Connie. 2012. “The Individual Experience of Unemployment.” Annual Review of Psychology 63: 369–96.

Rewarding Work

Related outcome: Positive employment environment; strong financial health

Mobility dimension engaged: Economic success; power and autonomy; being valued in community

Couple Walking illustration