Origins and outcomes of judgments about work

Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Jeylan T. Mortimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


We evaluate the importance of judgments about work for the attainment process in the "new economy." Findings show continuing links between social origins and work orientations at age 21/22, as well as significant effects of work orientations on occupational outcomes at age 31/32. Higher socio-economic status background, and stronger self-perceived ability, are tied to weaker extrinsic orientations. Young women are more intrinsically oriented than young men. Stronger intrinsic orientations predict holding jobs that offer more intrinsic rewards, self-direction and security. Stronger extrinsic orientations predict higher biweekly earnings (largely via work hours), but not more prestigious, better paying or more secure jobs. Judgments about work, and especially intrinsic orientations, thus remain important precursors of occupational attainments, despite economic turbulence and change in the transition to adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1239-1260
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0647333. The Youth Development Study is supported by a grant, “Work Experience and Mental Health: A Panel Study of Youth,” from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD44138). It was previously supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843). We thank Melvin Kohn for his feedback in the initial planning of this study, Jeremy Staff, Mike Vuolo and theWSU sociology department’s faculty research group for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript, and Sabrina Oesterle and Scott Eliason for statistical advice. Direct correspondence to Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Department of Sociology, P.O. Box 644020, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4020. E-mail: [email protected].


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