Work values, early career difficulties, and the U.S. economic recession

Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Rayna Amber Sage, Jeylan T. Mortimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We examine how work difficulties in the early career and the generally deteriorating work conditions associated with the recent U.S. economic recession shape individuals' work values. Drawing on panel data from the Youth Development Study, we test whether individuals change their work values in response to concerns about satisfying material needs or the features of jobs that they are able to attain. Results indicate that extrinsic values are weakened in the face of unemployment, as well as reduced job security, income, and advancement. These patterns support a reinforcement and accentuation model in which workers adjust their values to emphasize what they actually obtain from the job. Intrinsic values are weakened by working in a job unrelated to one's career plans; they are reinforced by the experience of greater intrinsic rewards and advancement opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-267
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0647333. The Youth Development Study is supported by Grant Number R01HD044138 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. It was previously supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development or the National Institutes of Health.


  • The great recession
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Work values


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