The bright side of bad times
The affective advantages of entering the workforce in a recession
Despite the well-documented financial and career disadvantages of graduating in a recession, could these graduates actually be happier with their jobs? Decades of research on satisfaction suggests that how people feel about their outcomes does not always mirror the objective value of these outcomes.
This paper examines whether earning a college or graduate degree in a recession or an economic boom has lasting effects on job satisfaction. Across three studies, well-educated graduates who entered the workforce during economic downturns were happier with their current work than those who first searched for jobs during more prosperous times.
This paper examines whether earning a college or graduate degree in a recession or an economic boom has lasting effects on job satisfaction. Across three studies, well-educated graduates who entered the workforce during economic downturns were more satisfied with their current jobs than those who entered during more prosperous economic times. Study 1 showed that economic conditions at college graduation predicted later job satisfaction even after accounting for different industry and occupational choices. Study 2 replicated these results and found that recession-era graduates were more satisfied with their jobs both early and later in their careers and even when they earned less money. A third cross-sectional study showed that people who entered the workforce in bad economies were less likely to entertain upward counterfactuals, or thoughts about how they might have done better, and more likely to feel grateful for their jobs, both of which mediated the relationship between economic conditions at workforce entry and job satisfaction. While past research on job satisfaction has focused largely on situational and dispositional antecedents, these results suggest that early workforce conditions also can have lasting implications for how people affectively evaluate their jobs.
Emily C. Bianchi
The Bright Side of Bad Times: The Affective Advantages of Entering the Workforce in a Recession Administrative Science Quarterly December 2013 58: 587-623, first published on October 10, 2013 doi:10.1177/0001839213509590