Some Massachusetts Institute of Technology MBA students were blown away by the stories they recently heard from graduates of a local community college:
One young graduate told how he dropped out of high school and drifted for a couple years before becoming an Army Ranger and then, with the help of the GI Bill, and good army counselors, got his “second chance” at school by enrolling in the community college. He graduated and is pursuing a four-year college degree.
To reduce the persistently high unemployment rate in the United States, Congress should move to relax some of our current constraints on immigration.
This is a controversial idea because many people are under the impression that allowing in more immigrants would push up unemployment. But that would only be the case if the number of jobs in the US were an unchanging constant. Read More »
[Question] How did you get interested in researching long-term unemployment? What motivated you to write your book and start the Institute for Career Transitions (ICT)?
[Professor Sharone] I got interested in this issue as a graduate student. I was doing a PhD in Sociology at UC Berkeley, and my initial research was actually about high-tech workers and long work hours. But at the time I was doing this research, the dot.com bubble burst around the year 2000. What was very surprising to me and to the people who got caught up in it more directly (that is, the workers), was the number of people who had done everything that society told them you need to do to be successful–they went to college, they sometimes had masters degrees or PhD degrees, and years of working experience. And yet these individuals saw themselves unemployed and sometimes unable to get to any job for months and sometimes for years.
This was all around me as a graduate student, and even though it was not yet as big or brutal a national event as came later with the Great Recession, being in the Bay Area during this time was an early experience of what was to later come in 2008. So this is how I got into the issue, and I began doing interviews of unemployed individuals. I’m a qualitative sociologist, so I do in-depth interviews with people. I began asking people about the experience of job searching, how they understood the obstacles they faced, and I came to realize that looking for work is a kind of work in itself, and it’s probably among the hardest kinds of work that exist. It’s extremely emotionally difficult–it’s essentially straight up rejection. And I was very interested in how people felt with that, and in documenting some of the pain and hardship that people described to me.
I also became interested in comparing the experience of unemployed job seekers cross-nationally. My research became driven by the question, “Is what I’m seeing among American white-collar professionals universal for similar types of workers?” That question lead to my book, Flawed System, Flawed Self, which is a cross-national comparison of the experience of job searching and unemployment for this group of highly educated, skilled workers. I learned in the process how actually very different that experience can be–the sense of self-blame, and the emotional toll can be very different depending on how one needs to look for work.
As the release of January’s jobs report will likely remind us on Friday, unemployment is a double whammy for white-collar American workers. In addition to experiencing financial stress, many unemployed workers end up fearing that something is deeply wrong with them.
I interviewed more than 170 white-collar job seekers in the U.S. and Israel between 2004-2006 and between 2011-2012 for my new book, Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, and I was surprised by how many of the unemployed Americans confided that, in the course of their job searches, they had come to feel “flawed.” Israelis who had gone just as long without finding a job didn’t tend to blame themselves that way; they were convinced it was a flawed system that kept them unemployed. It didn’t seem likely to me that Americans were inherently more self-blaming than Israelis. Instead, my research revealed how the particular and peculiar process of American white-collar job searching — a process I call the “chemistry game” — renders the players vulnerable to a debilitating self-blame.
The U.S. stock market is now at new highs. So why are average Americans continuing to struggle and not feeling this prosperity? What causes this apparent disconnect between market highs and citizen well-being?
As the expression goes, stocks are climbing a wall of worry. And by our estimates, despite economic malaise, the stock market hasn’t peaked, and we’re still on the way up. Here are some reasons why: