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

43 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 - Dec 1 2012


  • The great recession
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Work values

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