Job Stability Is No Virtue for Young Men, New Study Finds

March 26, 1998

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Young men who jump from one job to another in their early years after school don’t seem to be hurting their later wages, a new national study suggests.

If anything, men who stay in their first occupation or industry may earn 5 to 7 percent less than their peers who have moved on, according to the results.

However, the effect of job stability on young women workers is less clear, researchers say.

“The advantages of early job stability can be overrated, particularly for young men,” said Rosella Gardecki, co-author of the study and a researcher at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research.

Gardecki conducted the study with David Neumark, a professor of economics at Michigan State University. Their study appears in the current issue of the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review.

The study involved 2,844 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth between 1979 and 1992. The NLSY is a federally funded survey conducted by Ohio State.

All of the people involved were 14 to 22 years old when the survey began. The researchers examined the job histories of participants for the first five years after they completed their schooling. Keeping these job histories in mind, the researchers then determined how much the participants earned when they were in their late 20s to early 30s.

The results showed that later wages were generally not affected by the number of employers the participants had during the first five years in the workforce, or by whether the participants changed careers completely. Depending on how the researchers calculated the data, young men sometimes actually showed a wage penalty of 5 to 7 percent for job stability.

“Young men probably begin employment in lower-wage industries and occupations, so those that stay there may eventually earn less,” Gardecki said.

“We have to be careful not to lock young employees into jobs when they should be looking for work that better fits their growing skills.”

The study showed that women who show early job stability may have slightly higher wages than job-switchers -- but no more than 2 percent. This may because of employers’ concerns about commitment, Gardecki said.

“Employers may perceive that women who show early job stability are committed to the workforce -- they are less likely to leave to start a family or move because of their husband,” she said. However, she noted that the wage effects in women were small.

Gardecki said the results suggest caution when designing federal or state school-to-work programs that would have young workers form earlier and firmer attachments to their employers.

“Our results suggest that it doesn’t do much good to lock young workers into stable employment early in their careers,” she said. “It’s better for young workers to be actively job searching, to be looking for better matches between their skills and their jobs.”

The best thing to provide workers is training and skills that will help them find jobs, and also to perform better in their jobs, she said. The study showed that men who received some sort of worker training during their first five years after school had later wages up to 7 percent higher than those who didn’t receive such training. Women had even higher wage gains as the result of worker training -- up to 10 percent more when compared to women without post-school training.

Gardecki emphasized that this study looked at workers who were just beginning in the labor market. People who switch jobs often when they get older may have different experiences.

But there’s no doubt about the value of job hunting for younger people. “Locking young workers into industries and occupations in which they first find employment may be the worst of all possible worlds,” she said.

The study was funded by the federal Office of Technology Assessment.

Contact: David Neumark, (517) 353-7275;
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457;

Ohio State University

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