2008 September 01 Monday
Layoffs Reduce Social Capital

Here's a cost of both globalization and immigration.

"What we find is that even just one disruption in employment makes workers significantly less likely to participate in a whole range of social activities from joining book clubs to participating in the PTA and supporting charities," said Jennie E. Brand, a UCLA sociologist and the study's lead author. "After being laid off or downsized, workers are less likely to give back to their community."

The first study to look at the long-term impact of job displacement on social participation, the research found that workers who had experienced just one involuntary disruption in their employment status were 35% less likely to be involved in their communities than their counterparts who had never experienced a job loss due to layoff, downsizing or restructuring, or a business closing or relocating. Moreover, the exodus from community involvement continued not just through the spate of involuntary unemployment, but for the rest of the workers' lives.

"Social engagement often involves an element of social trust and a sense that things are reciprocal that you give some support if you get some support, and you benefit from society if society benefits from you," said Brand, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA. "When workers are displaced, the tendency is to feel as though the social contract has been violated, and we found that they are less likely to reciprocate."

Along with University of Michigan sociologist Sarah A. Burgard, Brand looked at 4,373 participants in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which has tracked a group of 1957 Wisconsin high school graduates for more than 45 years, gathering detailed information on their IQs, education, careers, psychological well-being, family and social lives. Born between 1939 and 1940, the group belongs to what Robert D. Putnam, the author of the 2001 sensation, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," has described as "a cohort of joiners" or an American age group particularly inclined to participate in community and social groups.

Of the six forms of involvement studied by Brand and Burgard, youth and community groups experienced the strongest exodus followed by church and church groups, charitable organizations and leisurely activities, including country club attendance.

For workers who were displaced during their peak earning years between 35 and 53 years of age the effects were the strongest. The researchers found that non-displaced workers were 1.2 to 1.5 times more likely to participate across all forms of social and community activities than workers who had been displaced. This was the case for both ages examined by the researchers 53 as well as at 64 years of age.

Humans didn't evolve for the market economy. I"m not surprised to see them react to it in this way. People who have been laid off feel like the tribe has been disloyal to them. They therefore focus on number one.

Ethnic diversity also reduces social capital.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 01 10:24 PM  Politics Social Capital

Jason Malloy said at September 3, 2008 7:06 AM:

Isn't there a causality problem here? It seems likely to me that people with lower inherent social skills and motivations would be more likely to face job penalties.

Randall Parker said at September 3, 2008 6:17 PM:


My impression is they looked at changes in activity and not just absolute levels of activity. This was a longitudinal study. But it is not clear to me that they had earlier levels of activity to compare against. Did they only look at levels of activity later in life?

Note that they collected IQ info. Did they control for that? Higher IQ people are less likely to get laid off.

Motivations and loss of jobs: Sure, there's an influence. But a lot of plant closings and company bankruptcies cut very widely. Still, yes, more highly motivated people are probably less likely to get laid off.

YT said at September 3, 2008 6:37 PM:

Just another way to break down White America.

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