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Employment Experiences of Older Workers in the Context of Shifts in the National Economy

the gerontological society of america's 65th annual scientific meeting in san diego, ca


  • Kevin E. Cahill (presenter)
  • Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes
  • Tay K. McNamara
  • Monique Valcour

Date of presentation:  November 17th, 2012

The existing literature on the determinants of employment experiences focuses on family, organization, and societal systems. The role of the broader macroeconomy as a driving force of employee experiences has largely been unexplored. This paper uses the Age and Generations (A&G) dataset, a survey of more than 2,000 employees from nine large organizations that, fortuitously, took place just prior to and immediate following the onset of the 2007-2009 recession. We examine the extent to which job satisfaction, employee engagement, and satisfaction with work-family balance are influenced by changes in the national macroeconomy, focusing on the experiences of older workers relative to others. We find that, across all workers, the state of the macroeconomy is a statistically significant determinant of job satisfaction and satisfaction with work-family balance. When the macroeconomy performs poorly employees tend to report lower levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of satisfaction with work-family balance, suggesting that employees’ job- and family-related attitudes are influenced by factors beyond the immediate job and family domains. An examination of workers by age reveals that those aged 40-54 years and those aged 55 years and older report higher engagement scores compared with younger workers, regardless of the current state of the macroeconomy. Older workers’ employment experiences are also less influenced by fluctuations in housing prices compared with younger workers. One implication of our findings is that the macroeconomy constitutes an influential context which may shape the effects of managerial decisions and policies on employees’ attitudes toward work and the work-family interface.

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