Where work works
The U.S. has witnessed growing inequality, decreasing wages, and increasing instability in work over the past several decades (Krugman, 2012; Stiglitz, 2015). Moreover, evidence demonstrating work’s impact on well-being is expansive, as is its role in upward mobility and maintaining systemic oppression (Blustein, 2006; 2008; Swanson, 2012). Despite this breadth of research, studies rarely attend to community factors that shape opportunity for accessing work. As such, the present study sought to better understand relationships among individuals’ economic resources and work-related psychological constructs, in conjunction with community economic conditions and access to decent work. The present study utilized latent structural equation modeling to test several hypothesized tenets of the Psychology of Working Theory (Duffy et al., 2016) involving the latent constructs of social class, work volition, decent work and life satisfaction, in a sample of 816 working adults. Modeling contained both a composite decent work (DW) factor and its five discrete components of DW: safe working conditions, adequate compensation, access to healthcare, adequate rest and free time, and a match of organizational and social/family values (Duffy et al., 2017). Moderation analyses relied on matching individual participant data to their county-specific opportunity data, such as poverty, unemployment, and Preschool enrollment rates. Results indicated that social class indirectly predicted DW through work volition and that DW subsequently predicted life satisfaction. When examining distinct DW components in tandem with a global construct, social class predicted the healthcare and rest/time off components of DW, which further attests to the unique variance in these components. Findings underscore the powerful role economic resources play in securing DW and shaping people’s work conditions, in addition to the clear impact of DW on overall well-being. Analyses did not yield significant moderation effects for economic conditions and community opportunity in hypothesized pathways. Implications for research, practice and policy, as well as study limitations are presented.