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Publication Detail
The Civic Footprints of Labor Market Participation: Longitudinal Evidence from the United States, 2002–2015
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Wiertz DCWM, Lim C
  • Publisher:
    Oxford University Press (OUP)
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Social Forces
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
While there is a widespread belief that stable employment is important for social integration, stable employment careers have become less common in America’s increasingly complex labor market. Job tenure has dropped, precarious work arrangements have gained prominence, long-term unemployment has spiked, and an increasing share of the jobless are not looking for work. Against this background, we investigate the linkages between labor market experiences and volunteer activities, as indicator of people’s involvement in civic life. We outline a theory on how transitions between labor market states—within, into, and out of the labor force—bring about changes in civic engagement and test our predictions using panel data from the Current Population Survey 2002-2015. Contrary to what much previous research suggests, we find that people who become unemployed are more likely to start volunteering and no more likely to stop. We additionally show that people who leave the labor force altogether (i.e., not having a job nor looking for one) are more likely to stop volunteering. Conversely, entering the labor force, either by securing or searching for a job, is associated with an increase in volunteer activities. We explore the role of motivation and time resources in accounting for these patterns, finding among other things that moving into or out of the most detached labor market state—outside the labor force without any intention to find work—is most consequential for civic engagement. We discuss the implications of our findings for civic democracy in light of ongoing labor market trends.
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