Recession graduates happier with their jobs, study finds

Dec 04, 2013 by Deede Pinckney
Recession graduates were typically more pleased with their jobs both early in their careers and even decades later, according to the study.

Well-educated college graduates who earned their degrees in a recession were ultimately more satisfied with their jobs, according to a newly published study by Emily Bianchi, assistant professor of organization and management at Emory University's Goizueta Business School.

Bianchi's findings appear in her paper, "The Bright Side of Bad Times: The Affective Advantages of Entering the Workforce in a Recession," published in the most recent issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Bianchi analyzed data from two large government-run surveys that have been administered regularly since the 1970s. The results showed that people who earned their degrees during economic downturns were more satisfied with their current jobs than those who first looked for work during more prosperous economic times.

According to Bianchi, the results could not be accounted for by generational differences or differences in industry or occupational selection. The findings are particularly surprising given the well-documented negative financial aspects of graduating in a recession. Recession earn less money and often hold less prestigious jobs.

Bianchi argues that how people evaluate what they have does not always reflect the value of what they have. As she writes, "Decades of psychological research has shown that how people feel about their outcomes does not always mirror the objective value of these outcomes." People can be happy with less, depending on how they think about their outcomes.

Conversely, people who graduate in economic booms are more likely to wonder if they could have done better and ruminate over paths not taken, says Bianchi. In contrast, recession graduates are more likely to feel grateful to have a job at all and spend less time wondering how they might have done better.

Graduates' initial ways of thinking about work tends to endure. Bianchi found that graduates were typically more pleased with their jobs both early in their careers and even decades later. The earlier trials of their career seemed to positively influence their evaluations of later jobs.

Bianchi argues that this conclusion is consistent with recent research in psychology that reveals that some adversity is associated with greater happiness than either too much or too little. "Too much adversity can be emotionally debilitating. Too little can weaken resilience, allowing people to magnify and exaggerate the bumps of everyday life," explains Bianchi.

Explore further: What happened to savings for the future?

More information: Emily C. Bianchi, "The Bright Side of Bad Times: The Affective Advantages of Entering the Workforce in a Recession." Administrative Science Quarterly 58: 587-623, first published on October 10, 2013. DOI: 10.1177/0001839213509590

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Graduates find mixed results in labour market

Mar 11, 2013

New research on the absorption of recent graduates into the labour market has revealed wide differences in how readily graduates from various fields of study and university groups find jobs to match their ...

Recommended for you

Industrial clusters fuel economies, according to study

Dec 22, 2014

Experts have long theorized that having a cluster of firms within a given industry helps a region's economy grow. Now a study co-authored by an MIT professor shows empirically that clusters of almost all ...

Economic output less dependent on road transportation

Dec 22, 2014

For the past 10 years, motorization in the U.S. has been on the decline, due mainly to more telecommuting, greater use of public transit, increased urbanization of the population and changes in the ages of drivers.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.