Area #1

The Career Penalties of Unemployment and Joblessness

1. Unemployment Scarring and the Role of Public Policy

Does unemployment breed unemployment? Can unemployment benefit institutions mitigate the negative socioeconomic consequences of unemployment? 

Over the past 15 years, my research has investigated the socioeconomic economic penalties of unemployment on individuals' wages, careers and labor market outcomes and its implications for public policy. For example, my book based on my PhD research and published in 2008, drew on sociological and labor economic theories to investigate the economic and behavioral consequences of unemployment and the buffering role of unemployment benefit institutions. Using high-quality Dutch longitudinal panel data spanning 28 years, I differentiated between groups exposed and not exposed to unemployment during their careers, as well as those affected (i.e., treated) and unaffected (i.e., control group) by policy reforms in the Netherlands by tracing their labor market histories and trajectories. Perhaps one of the most important findings of this research was that unemployed workers experienced shorter periods of joblessness under shorter and tighter eligibility regulations. Nonetheless, these workers generally received significantly lower salaries and faced worse labor market outcomes compared to their labor market positions and wages prior to unemployment. Moreover, the research indicated that the most effective UI benefit reform should not be a one-size-fits-all policy, but rather one that recognizes the diversity of its recipients, particularly in regard to family status, labor market history, and eligibility characteristics. My work on the effectiveness of a series of reforms in the level and duration of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for individual wages and labor market outcomes has been published in top journal outlets including Social Forces, (2011), and the European Sociological Review, (2012). 

In recent years, I have continued to contribute to research on unemployment scarring. For example, my co-authored article (with H. Ganzeboom) published at Social Science Research in 2015 provided new evidence about the heterogeneity in the effects of unemployment scarring. We showed that wage penalties among women were mainly driven by human capital depreciation, while for men they were mainly the result of the stigma attached to previous spells of unemployment.

Related to unemployment and labour market inequalities, co-authored work (with J. Munoz-Comet) in the European Sociological Review in 2016 investigated whether the probability of job loss differed between immigrant and native workers during economic fluctuations. We focused on Spain because it was one of the European countries most impacted by the Great Recession. Sophisticated decomposition models were used, revealing that most job loss differentials between immigrants and natives could be accounted for by structural factors, such as occupational level and the type of employment contract. However, disproportionate risks of job loss were found among immigrant workers during economic downturns, indicating that discriminatory practices may have been activated during these periods.

Related to unemployment scarring, my co-authored work (with A. Manzoni) published at Schmöllers Jahrbuch in (2011) and PlosOne (2020) investigated the implications of unemployment on career instability. For these studies, we utilized data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) and the HILDA Survey, both of which allowed us to examine men's and women's entire employment careers. The studies yielded new empirical evidence on how labor market disparities evolve after periods of unemployment.

2. Intergenerational Effects of Joblessness

Why is joblessness disproportionally reproduced in some families and not in others? What conditions shape disparities in the transmission of family joblessness?

These questions have been at the heart of my Australian Research Council-funded research, which has aimed to examine the ‘ingredients’ – mechanisms, channels, factors – that drive joblessness from parent to child in Australia and across Europe and the United States.

In a series of 9 high-impact publications (all in Q1 journals), a book chapter, and two more manuscripts in different stages of development, my research examined how growing up with jobless parents impacted children's socioeconomic and health outcomes in young adulthood. This body of evidence revealed that young adults raised by jobless parents face numerous challenges. They have delayed transitions from school to work, face wage penalties of up to 10 per cent, and are at risk of developing health problems, making it difficult for them to escape poverty in adulthood. For young people exposed to early-life disadvantage, in the form of parental joblessness, this means that they fail to live up to their full potential, miss out on labour market opportunities, accumulate lower lifetime earnings and superannuation and are unable to advance toward increasingly higher paying and higher status jobs over their careers. 

In my ongoing research, I explore pathways to successful employment and upward mobility for youth exposed to early disadvantage. 

Find out more about my published and ongoing research here.