Baylor A. Graham, M.S., Clemson University; Robert R. Sinclair, PhD, Clemson University

Economic stress is a salient and impactful issue in today’s workforce. With the recent influx of financial difficulties, unemployment, and job insecurity due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, recovery is at the forefront of our minds. With this study, we intend to increase the body of knowledge surrounding economic stress and to direct attention to workers most impacted by job insecurity. We hypothesized that the relationship between job insecurity and health and between job insecurity and life satisfaction would be moderated by the extent to which workers are economically dependent on their job. We expected that these relationships would be the strongest for those who are most economically dependent on their job. We also hypothesized that job satisfaction would moderate the relationship between job insecurity and health and between job insecurity and life satisfaction. We expected that these relationships would be the strongest for those who are the most satisfied with their job.

Research and public interest surrounding economic stress has been growing over the years and several studies have demonstrated the importance of this work not only as it relates to organizational outcomes, but as it relates to worker health and well-being. Job insecurity leads to variety of reactions in the worker that have been linked to poor outcomes such as increased anxiety, depression, poor physical health, and hostility (Kuhnert et al., 1989; Probst, 2005). However, despite the progress that has been made in understanding the correlates and consequences of job insecurity, unaddressed gaps in existing scholarship remain.

Gaps in the Literature
First, economic vulnerabilities such as economic dependence have not been sufficiently explored in the research on job insecurity (Shoss, 2017). Nevertheless, it is important to attend to in order to better understand those most adversely impacted. Second, although one study has investigated the moderating role of financial dependence in the relationship between job insecurity and a measure of well-being, support for their hypothesis was not found and their study suffered from limited generalizability (see Richter et al., 2014). Our study however, examined both self-rated health and life satisfaction and was more generalizable because we used workers within a broad range of occupations throughout the United States. Finally, to our knowledge no existing scholarship has examined the moderating role of job satisfaction in the relationship between job insecurity and health and well-being.

To test our hypotheses, data was collected using Amazon?s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) at two time points that were three months apart. We retained 593 participants. Our participants had a median annual income of $42,000 and a median age of 34. Our sample was comprised of 41% men and 59% women. Prior to hypothesis testing, we ensured that our measures were reliable (Table 1), examined correlations (Table 2), and followed suggestions for best practices by Weisberg (2014), by transforming our predictors towards multivariate normality using power transformations. To test our hypotheses, we performed multiple regression analyses, tested simple slopes for the significant interactions at one standard deviation above and below the mean of the moderator, and plotted these interactions.

The results of the regression analyses revealed significant main effects and that economic dependence and job satisfaction moderated the relationship between job insecurity and life satisfaction (Table 3). A three-way interaction was also found (Table 3). For job insecurity and self-rated health, main effects were found, and only economic dependence moderated the relationship (Table 4).

Our findings imply that the extent to which someone depends on their job is important for how job insecurity relates to health (Figure 1) and well-being (Figure 2). Furthermore, the extent to which job insecurity is related to a worker’s life satisfaction changes based on how much they like their job (Figure 3). Those who really love their job are the most negatively impacted by job insecurity. We discovered that this finding holds even when workers are not economically dependent on their job (Figure 4). Our study highlights the importance of both economic and attitudinal factors in considering the impact of job insecurity on health and well-being.

It is our hope that this study aids in generating future research on economic stress. While our study focuses on the negative implications of job insecurity, some research suggests that job insecurity can have short term motivating effects for individuals as well (Shoss, 2017). Based on our findings, perhaps job insecurity may be beneficial for increasing employee motivation and subsequent positive outcomes for individuals who are less economically dependent on their jobs. Future research should investigate these relationships further along with other poor outcomes that may depend on the extent to which the job is needed or is a source of satisfaction for the worker.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Basic research, Emerging Issues, Job Attitudes; Turnover; and Retention, Psychological and Biological Effects of Job Stress, Workplace Stress; Outcomes; and Recovery